Revisions to the laws concerning Florida Child Custody and other family law matters will become effective October 1, 2008.
The new law will do away with the "tender years doctrine" which most feel is the reason fathers are awarded custody less often than mothers. You know, the presumption that the mother is the better caregiver so regardless of how active a father is in the life of his child custody automatically goes to the mother.
I've done research and haven't been able to find out in-depth information about the new law. I do know that there will no longer be a "primary residential parent" and a "secondary residential parent." They are also doing away with the terms "custodial" and "non-custodial" parent. The mother and father will both be known through the courts as the "parent."
What they are attempting to do by changing terminology that is used to identify a parent is unclear to me. I was told by an attorney friend that the old terms minimalized the role of the non-custodial parent...made that parent seem less important in the child's life.
Another term done away with is "visitation." The terms "parenting plan" or "time sharing' will now be used. Again, this is an attempt by the courts to make sure that both parents play a larger or more equal role in a child's life.
I'm sorry but, in my opinion how important a role you have in your child's life has little to do with terminology in a final divorce decree. I don't want to dismiss the pain fathers go through when the family they love is torn apart by divorce and the time they spend with their children is dictated by a final divorce decree. I can't imagine the level of frustration and emotional pain that would cause.
I know from personal experience and from years of communicating with divorced parents that no matter what you are called by the courts, if you don't work at building and maintaining a relationship with your child changing the words used by the courts isn't going to amount to a hill of beans.
I hope that I'm wrong and a few new descriptive words will be the answer that fathers are looking for. Maybe this new law will level out the playing field and give them just as much right to custody and parenting their child as the mother. In the meantime, call your child every day, don't miss a scheduled visitation, make their needs your priority and never put your interest above theirs. If you do that, it won't matter what term is used to describe you by a family court.