Summer Child Custody Dispute: When to Seek Mediation

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. on July 13, 2018 6:00 AM


As any parent knows, summer can be a hot topic. And not just the weather.

Come June, when the kids are out of school, the real heat begins. The workable child custody agreement that separated parents have put together during the school year flies out the window, and the bummer of summer begins. If a child custody dispute arises, you may be wondering, when should you seek mediation?

How Can I Turn Down the Heat?

If you are feeling this way, you aren't alone. What can you do? That's a complicated question. If there is already a court-ordered custody agreement in place, parents have to stick to it until it is officially modified. To modify, parents either have to work it out between themselves, or seek legal advice in the form of mediation or a divorce attorney to modify the existing custody agreement.

The easiest, quickest, and cheapest way to handle a summer child custody dispute is to have the parents work together to find a solution. Open communication is key, and the earlier the better. If you foresee a scheduling conflict or are planning a summer vacation, contact the other parent as early as possible to find a solution that works for both of you.

What If This Is Too Hot Too Handle Alone?

Do you feel this is easier said than done? You may want to hire a mediatorto help devise a solution. When should you seek a mediator? It may be a good idea if any of the following applies:

  • If you have issues speaking with your ex, a mediator can always help. Mediators are lawyers who are trained to find a solution that is amendable and fair to both sides. They understand that you may not be able to be in the same room with your ex, and are usually quite comfortable speaking with each separately. Mediators can devise a solution without either party ever having to even see one another.
  • If you want to modify a custody agreement on a trial-basis, and are not ready to make it part of the official custody agreement, mediators can help with that too. Unlike court orders, mediator recommendations are not binding and often not admissible in court, which means that parents may feel a little more comfortable trying out mediator solutions.
  • If you need a solution right away, a mediator can help much quicker than courts. As stated, until there is an agreed upon modification in place, parents must stick to the original agreement or risk legal ramifications. A court ordered modification can take months (maybe years!) to obtain. But a mediator may be able to hammer out an agreement in a week.
  • If you need to find a cost-effective solution, hiring one mediator is almost always cheaper than two litigating attorneys. Mediators work on behalf of both parents, so only one needs to be hired. And since mediators are attorneys, if both parents end up liking the new agreement, the mediator can file the agreement with the courts to be part of the permanent custody agreement going forward in future months.

Summer can be a fantastic time with your kids. Keep in mind, once they turn 18, those summers together could be over. Make the most out of each and every summer with your kids by planning early and often with your ex. If you need any help settling a custody dispute, contact a mediator today to see if he or she can settle the dispute quickly, cheaply, and relatively peacefully.

Making Child Custody Agreements Work in Summertime

In the eyes of a child, summertime stands for fun. Swimming, sleepover camp, long days, cool evenings, and vacation plans dominate their calendars. For children of divorced or separated parents, summer can be anything but fun if effective co-parenting skills fail and custody arrangements are interrupted. Those long days can become even longer when tension and disappointment fill the air.


One of the most important aspects in any child custody arrangement is a commitment to communication by both parents. When two adults can put the best interests of their child ahead of personal agendas or heated emotions, all parties benefit, especially the children. Talking together about upcoming vacation plans and family holidays in advance can accommodate everyone’s plans if both parents agree to be flexible with changes to the established custody schedules.

As school ends and summer schedules take effect, a well laid custody plan that takes into consideration the work schedules of both parents can relieve a lot of stress and unnecessary childcare expenses. Deciding which activities the children will participate in and who will be responsible for paying for them, is an essential part of the custody agreement.  One that can alleviate a lot of last minute disappointments. Including your children in the conversation on what activities will be feasible can help present an amicable team approach to the custody agreement.

As children get older, their summer plans may change from recreational activities to work or school commitments and internships. When there are multiple children to consider, negotiating the custody agreement may have to focus on which parent or location can best accommodate each of the children. Sharing summer holidays like Memorial Day weekend and the Fourth of July, as well as vacation availability for working children can present a challenge, but with flexibility and compromise when forming the custody agreement, both parents can establish quality time with each of their children.

An effective custody plan will also leave room for celebrations like family reunions, weddings, and out of town visits. These special occasions are very important for children to hold onto the family traditions of each parent. A large majority of children grieve the loss of established family traditions when a divorce or separation occurs. Making family celebrations a priority can help establish a sense of security and can alleviate the feelings of loss for the children.

Note to Parents: Time Share is the term Florida now uses instead of the more familiar 'custody'. You do not have to be the ‘perfect’ parent to obtain time share. The courts generally recognize that people are not perfect. As long as your children are not in some way harmed by you and you are able to provide them with suitable accommodation and a loving environment, you should technically be able to share their care and control.  To find out more, you can contact a Florida Family Lawyer here.

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Family Friday: How Florida Courts Look at Child Support

Determining the outcomes of child support in the state of Florida entails a number of considerations. First and foremost, no parent can refuse to pay child support, even if it is just a small monthly amount.

In Florida custodial parenting is no longer granted with one exception, that of sole custody which is granted only under very strict circumstances due to proven abusive or unfit parenting, or incarceration of the other parent. If a parent feels they are entitled to sole custody it is necessary to seek the services of a child custody attorney as it is highly unlikely an individual can prove extenuating circumstances allowing sole custody on their own.

The term parental time-sharing is now used in Florida Family Law to provide the guidelines for physical custody, where and with who the child will live and how much time each parent shares with the child, including over-nights, and legal custody, the shared decision making for education, medical, discipline, and religion. Child support will be awarded on the basis of percentage of time spent with the child, number of over-nights, specific needs of child in question, and income and potential income of each spouse. In is important to note an over-night is considered when a child actually sleeps at a legal caregivers, usually the parent’s, home. Visitation with a child from, say, six in the morning to ten at night would not count as an over-night.

Once the parental time-sharing schedule has been completed and approved either in mediation or by a judge in court, the amount of child support will be determined. There is a generic dollar amount chart for Florida child support but as each case is different, there are many considerations, which will be taken into account. This is where a child support lawyer is really essential for obtaining the best outcomes. It is often true the dollars spent in hiring a competent, experienced child support lawyer will be more than made up by the amount of child support awarded. While it is true there is now a computer program to do the final figuring, the information put into the computer is best done by a professional.

But what happens when the parent adjudicated to pay child support fails to pay and arrearages become a problem. In Florida child support is not an option it is a legal responsibility there are two choices.

The party awarded child support, and this can sometimes be a third party such as a legal guardian, can have the Florida Department of Revenue, Child Support Enforcement pursue the case at no cost. This, however, usually takes a long time to come before a judge as there are over a thousand cases being serviced at a time. Too, there is no contact with the child support lawyer representing you until your day in court so essentially there is no time to hear your story and prepare you for questioning.

The second choice is to hire a qualified and experienced child support lawyer who will be able to work with you personally and bring the matter to court in a much shorter period of time. The judge has a number of possible methods to help bring child support up to date including but not limited to, incarceration up to 179 days, canceling a passport, giving tax refund monies from the owing party to the party owed back support, garnishing a bank account, and suspending a car/truck license plate and registration and even the offending party’s driver’s license.

Florida cares about their children and in fact goes by the watchwords “In the best interest of the child”. Child support arrearages are not acceptable!

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