Most people think of language in terms of which words will best express what they think and feel. But the relationship goes the other way as well. Words and phrases have the power to shape how we think and feel. This is among the reasons why Florida courts prefer to use phrases like “parenting plans” and “time sharing” rather than the more traditional “child custody” and “visitation.”
For decades, the custody model was often based on picking the “better parent” and awarding custody accordingly. In some parts of the United States, this is still how things are done. But family courts are increasingly realizing that frequent and continued contact with both parents is often in the best interests of children after divorce.
So why does it matter what language we use to describe the process? The answer is that how we talk about post-divorce parenting is indicative of our assumptions. And the assumptions present at the beginning of the process often direct the final outcome of negotiations.
If a high-conflict couple goes into negotiations (or litigation) with the assumption that each is fighting for primary custody, this is likely to be the outcome. It is a zero-sum game where one parent’s “win” is the other parent’s “loss.” With this model, children often end up losing as well.
If, on the other hand, shared parenting is the assumption at the outset, this is likely to be outcome. When both parents take an active role in creating a collaborative parenting plan, it takes winners and losers out of the equation. Instead, it serves the best interests of all involved while recognizing that some compromise is necessary.
At the Law Office of Kelley A. Joseph, we work with clients to obtain outcomes that are in the best interests of their children. While this often means collaborative co-parenting, we also recognize that there are times when other arrangements need to be made. If you want to know more about how we can help you and your children, please visit the child custody page on our website.