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Focus: Florida Fathers, Child Custody and Relevant Law

A recent article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper tells the stories of and quotes liberally from several Florida fathers chronicling their experiences following divorce, most centrally with child custody matters.

The consensus quite clearly seems to be that family court is not an unbiased venue generally, that divorced fathers often face high hurdles in establishing and maintaining close connections with their children following marital dissolution, and that most men are woefully ignorant when it comes to what Florida law actually says and provides for concerning child custody.

Single-parent homes run by fathers have historically been, and continue to be, statistical anomalies, according to the Census Bureau, which states that only about 15 percent of all American homes are marked by kids being raised by only a father.

That, say many dads, influences people and perceptions. As one man notes, "No one can fathom why a court would ever give a child to a dad."

Most fathers who have experience in court with child custody matters say that men generally need to better educate themselves about the law because, facially, it provides a strong element of fairness and opportunity for dads who want to be a strong and continuing presence in the lives of their kids.

Florida law underwent material change in October 2008, when it replaced the concepts of "custody" and "visitation" with a 50/50 timesharing arrangement between parents. The goal of the law is indeed fairness, and it deemphasizes ideas like primary and secondary custody. Rather, it seeks to promote parental unity, calling for the creation of a parenting plan that contemplates the contributions and presence of both a mother and a father.

Notes one family law attorney about fathers and their family law rights: "They genuinely just aren't aware of how equal a footing the law will put them on if they just stand up for themselves and take the time and energy to assert their rights."

Related Resource: South Florida Sun-Sentinel, "Local single fathers stepping up their game in the fight for child custody" June 17, 2011

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