When a parent has not been present in a child's life for an extended period of time, this presents a challenge in awarding overnight time-sharing with that parent. Usually, a Florida child custody court will order a gradual increase in time-sharing to allow the child and parent to become acquainted or re-acquainted. However, child custody orders must not impede a parent's ability to establish regular and substantial contact with a child, as illustrated in the case Munoz v. Munoz, 210 So.3d 227 (Fla. 2d DCA 2017).
The trial court in this case entered an order which left it up to the children's therapist to decide when the former husband could progress to the next of three stages of gradual time-sharing with the children. The order further gave sole authority to the former wife to change the children's therapist at any time without the input of the former husband. Last, the order did not specify how or when the former husband would be able to exercise overnight time-sharing.
The appellate court found these provisions of the order to be inappropriate, holding a Florida family court may not delegate decision-making authority to a therapist or to a parent - this is the court's job to decide the best interest of the children. The court also held that a parent whose time-sharing rights are restricted must be given "the key" to his/her own locked door - that is, the parent whose time-sharing rights are restricted must be given clear instructions on how to progress to unrestricted time-sharing. Accordingly, the appellate court reversed the lower court's order as to these three issues.
This case shows us the importance of the wording of orders. Having a final judgment that withstands appeal starts with knowledge of the law. Consulting with a Miami family law attorney may put you on the right path toward a proper child custody order.