Reasonable Visitation Rights in Florida

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What are reasonable visitation rights in Florida? A reader asks, “My divorce states “reasonable visitation”. However my ex has never been consistent with visitation and we go months without hearing anything and then out of the blue, “it’s my weekend, don’t care that you had plans or that child is now a boy scout and he has plans. If you don’t show up you are breaking the law and will go to jail.”

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

I have tried to follow the Florida guidelines, but why should our son have to give up something planned like that because the other parent wants him that weekend. What does reasonable visitation really mean? The Florida guidelines say every other week, but does that apply when there has been no contact on the other parent’s side? It also doesn’t state what week is “every other week”. Also, my son doesn’t want to go. He is 12 now and almost as big as me, honestly if push came to shove, he is stronger then me and I could not “force” him to do anything.”

What you have just touched on is the bane of many family law attorneys and judges. The term “reasonable visitation” is so fluid and vague that it causes far many more problems than it resolves, and for exactly the reasons you are experiencing now. There is no way to look at the calendar and say “it’s his weekend” or “it’s her weekend”. The child cannot plan, and neither parent can plan.

That said, it is of course critical that your son have an ongoing relationship with both parents, regardless of how you feel about your ex.

The best way to resolve this is to first try and talk with your ex, and see if the two of you can come up with an agreement on your own, in writing, as to which weekends your child will spend with which parent. Then have one of your attorneys file that agreement with the court. If you cannot come up with an agreement on your own, then you should petition the court to craft one for you.

All child timeshare (visitation) agreements should spell out extremely clearly exactly what the visitation schedule will be, including holidays (“Thanksgiving with mother on odd years, with father on even years”), for this very reason, and avoid the term “reasonable visitation” at all costs. Let’s face it, if the parents could do anything together reasonably, they probably wouldn’t have needed to get divorced in the first place.

Recommended reading:
Putting Kids First: Walking Away From A Marriage Without Walking Over The Kids

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Author: Anne P. Mitchell, Esq.

Anne P. Mitchell, Esq. is a noted family law expert, Internet law expert, and Professor of Law at Lincoln Law School of San Jose. She is the author of "Surviving Divorce: the Single Father's Guide" and "The Email Deliverability Handbook"

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