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The Florida Bar
www.floridabar.org
The Florida Bar Journal
January, 1998 Volume LXXII, No. 1
Practical Aspects of Parenting Conflicts: Preparing parents for litigation

by Judge Renee Goldenberg

Page 54

The Shared Parental Responsibility Act became law in 1982, 15 years ago. The leg-
islature established a unique concept—shared parenting. The concept contemplated a new era in Florida regarding the law as it relates to children—no more “care, custody, and control.” Both parents retain their legal rights and responsibilities to parent and share time with their children, and do not just receive “visitation.” Of course, with no funding for education of the public, the lay person has been assumed to know the law, when in reality the education as to the law is provided by the practitioner and the judge on a case-by-case basis. The intent of this article is to provide practical assistance and ideas for education and implementation of the concepts of shared parental responsibility, which ultimately will serve the best interests of the child.

Psychology of the Litigant

The process of dissolution of marriage is multidimensional, of which a legal proceeding is only one dimension, according to “The Six Dimensions of Divorce,” in the Bohannan Model (legal, emotional, psychological, community, economic, co-parental). The emotional stages of “wounding and healing” which comprise the psychological process of dissolution (preparation, separation, off the wall, adult adolescence, mature identity, and life style) affect the parties’ judgment. A parent preoccupied with his or her own emotional survival and the reordering of his or her life may not be acting in a child’s best interest. The parent may be totally unaware of how the dynamics of these emotions not only detrimentally impact upon the child and the parties’ ability to co-parent in the future, but may also damage the party’s case in court. It is important to educate the parent and recommend interventions to the parent prefiling or early in the litigation.1

Dissolution of marriage is one of life’s most stressful experiences.2 The Fifth District Court of Appeal in Kunzweiler v. Kunzweiler, 698 So. 2d 1251, 1254 (Fla. 5th DCA 1997), explained:
Only the death of a spouse is generally reported to be more stressful for adults than divorce; separation and divorce are consistently rated more stressful than going to jail, losing a job, personal injury, illness, mortgage foreclosure, and all other distressing life experiences except the death of a spouse. Lynn Wardle, “No-Fault Divorce and the Divorce Conundrum,” 1991 B.Y.U.L. Rev. 79, 101. See also Elizabeth Van Arsdale, “Reduce Stress by Redefining Your Role,” 16 WTR Fam. Advoc. 28 (1994)(divorce is one of the most traumatic events that can happen to a person, second only to the death of a loved one). For even healthy personalities, divorce is a severe challenge. For persons with significant pathology, the stress of divorce can cause an emotional crisis. Sam Marguiles and Anya Luchow, “The Initiator and the Non-initiator of a Divorce,” 14 No. 4 Fairshare 3 (April 1994). See also Wardle, 1991 B.Y.U.L. Rev. at 126 (divorce causes, exacerbates or unleashes a host of serious psychological problems).

In a civil court of equity, with the trial judge sitting as the sole trier of fact and law, the role of the judge is not that of a passive observer. The presentation and credibility of the parent is a paramount consideration, and the attorney should recognize that he or she may now be representing a parent who may be impaired. If the parent is impaired, the attorney should consider how that client’s behavior may be viewed by the judge. As discussed in Nateman v. Greenbaum, 582 So. 2d 643 (Fla. 3d DCA 1991):

It is recognized that a “judicial officer is the sum of his past: who is expected to be influenced by real life experiences. . . . Application of that experience in weighing the facts and credibility of witnesses is not inappropriate conduct for a judge in a non-jury trial . . . . To the contrary, it was held in In re Int’l Business Mach. Corp., 618 F.2d 923, 930 (2d Cir. 1980), . . . .” Because his fact-finding is based on his estimates of the witnesses, of their reliability as reporters of what they saw and heard, it is the judge’s duty, while listening and watching them, to form attitudes toward them. He must do his best to ascertain their motives, their biases, their dominating passions and interests, for only so can he judge the accuracy of their narrations. .
. . He must cannily penetrate through the surface of their remarks to their real purposes and motives. He has an official obligation to become prejudiced in that sense. Impartiality is not gullibility. Disinterestedness does not make child-like innocence. If the judge did not form judgments of the actors in those court-house dramas called trials, he could never render decisions.

If the parent is not aware of or in control of his or her emotions, conduct, and behavior, a parent needs not only to be educated as to the process, but also needs to be referred to interventions, i.e., psychological counseling, support groups. In addition, because perception is altered by emotions, the parent may be viewing the other party, and attributing actions and behaviors to the other party askew, causing the parent not to be believable in court. The attorney needs to expand the “counsellor at law” role and serve as a “reality check” for the parent. It is up to the attorney to inform the parent and the witnesses of the importance of their demeanor and credibility, to prepare them extensively for the appearance in court, and to control their conduct in court. See Judge Glickstein’s concurrence in Tessler v. Tessler, 539 So. 2d 522, 523 (Fla 4th DCA 1989).

At the first client interview in which the attorney is made aware that parental responsibility and/or primary residence is in issue, the attorney should provide tasks for the parent. The tasks have the dual purpose of educating the attorney and client about the case and preparing the case and the client for trial immediately. For example, the attorney should have the client complete the parental responsibility questionnaire published by the Family Law Section in the continuing legal education publication, Florida Dissolution of Marriage. This questionnaire, compiled by this author, provides three sections: The first third asks the parent to provide background information regarding the child, which, if it cannot be completed by the client or is incomplete, should raise questions as to motivation of the client and actual involvement in the child’s life; the second third educates the client as to the law; and the third section prepares the case for litigation and identifies independent witnesses early, i.e., day care workers, teachers, pediatrician. Having the parent keep a daily diary of the parent’s involvement in the child’s life as a business record, verifying information and reporting, and providing a copy to the attorney on a regular basis keeps the attorney informed and involved with the parent and the progress of the case and allows the attorney greater control over the parent’s actions. F.S. §90.803(6) can arguably be used to overcome the hearsay objection to the diary’s admissibility as a business record.

Since there is no licensing requirement prior to becoming a parent and everyone can improve their parenting skills, it may be appropriate to recommend that the parent attend the court-required Children and Divorce course, or its equivalent, immediately at the filing of the litigation, and even attend additional parent effectiveness training courses. The attorney may want to have the parent and/or parent’s home evaluated prefiling by psychological and social worker professionals and begin rehabilitation of the parent prefiling or early in the case. There is a saying that “one does not win a ‘custody’ battle, the other side loses it.” This results from the opponent’s lack of control over personal behavior, and lack of education as to how the law impacts upon the outcome.

Discretion of the Court and Best Interests of the Child

Litigants have an unrealistic view as to what the civil court can do and can’t do.3 Many litigants come to the family court pro se, and expect the court to solve their problems, when much of what is presented to the court occurred with only two persons present—the two parents—and their perceptions of what occurred vary diametrically. Much of the relief requested with regard to the child would require the court to monitor the homes of the parents on a daily basis, an impossibility.

On the other hand, the parents are shocked when the court does not do what they ask. The court has an independent duty to act as “parens patriae” (“wise, affectionate, and careful parent”) and make determinations in the best interest of the child, despite an agreement of the parties.4 The court has the power and authority to disregard such agreement, and make any such other order that will protect the best interest of the child.5

The best interests of the child test remains the prime consideration in determining parental responsibility. Even with the factors enumerated in F.S. §61.13(3) to assist the court in determining the best interests of the child, the continuing problem with the test remains, as set forth in Barnhill v. Barnhill, 353 So. 2d 923, 925 (Fla. 4th DCA 1978): “[w]ho among us has the wisdom to know . . . what decision will be in the best interests of the children?” The court requires the attorneys’ assistance, the assistance of competent experts, and the assistance of family division support staff to attempt to resolve this difficult question.

It is in the area of parental responsibility litigation that the judge is truly the “800-pound gorilla,” (a phrase repeated in an article about Canakaris v. Canakaris, 382 So. 2d 1197 (Fla. 1980), by Judge Gavin K. Letts in a Florida Bar Journal article in the early 1980’s). Specifically, the Florida Supreme Court in Grant v. Corbitt, 95 So. 2d 25, 28 (Fla. 1957), has stated that, in “child custody” cases:

[T]he opportunity of the Chancellor to observe the demeanor and personalities of the parties and their witnesses to feel force, powers, and influences that cannot be discerned by merely reading the record, assumes a new importance because of the many intangibles that must be evaluated in deciding the delicate question of child custody.

Given that the discretion of trial judges in custody cases is wide, appellate courts are only able to reverse the decision if the trial court abused its discretion.6 As noted in Baldwin v. Baldwin, 576 So. 2d 400 (Fla. 5th DCA 1991), this is a rare occurrence:
Even though the appellate judges may sometimes disagree with a trial judge’s discretionary call, that does not warrant our substituting our judgment for the one made below. Trial judges sit in closer proximity to the parties; they get to meet them and listen to them and their witnesses. We have only the record to read and no matter how persuasive it and the argument of counsel may be, there is no substitute for being there. Unless we determine that no reasonable judge would have done what was done, we must affirm.

What reasonable person would abdicate their personal power to allow a stranger, a trial judge, to decide their fate and their future and their child’s future with virtually no recourse! The attorney’s role, attempting alternative dispute mechanisms to avoid litigation and the unnecessary exposure of the family to the vicissitudes of the court and the extraordinary cost and stress of contested litigation is, therefore, all important. Education, preparation, and rehabilitation of the parents, if necessary, prior to trial, serves the child’s best interests. Not only may the family thereby recover from the dissolution process, but the family, in a different form, may come back in a stronger fashion and thereby prepare the parents to better serve the child’s needs and welfare.

The attorney should admonish the parent that behavior must be controlled or that the parent must learn how to and must act reasonably at all times, even when faced with unreasonableness. If both parents “fling enough mud” at each other, the result may be a finding that “neither parent is fit” resulting in an F.S. Chapter 39 dependency proceeding where the child is removed from both parents.7 So, the intent of litigation is to encourage the parent to be or become the best parent pursuant to the factors in F.S. §61.13, not to react to the other parent’s actions. Visual images regarding parenting litigation may be helpful, i.e., imagine that you are now living in a fishbowl and everything you do or say 24 hours a day may be reported to the judge or imagine that the judge is on your shoulder and watching everything you do or say 24 hours a day.

Research conducted at the California Center for the Family in Transition shows three factors associated with good outcomes for the child after dissolution of their parents’ marriage: 1) a close, sensitive relationship with a psychologically intact, conscientious “primary residential” parent; 2) the diminution of conflict and reasonable cooperation between the parents; and 3) whether the child came to the dissolution with pre-existing psychological difficulties. A critical finding in this study is: “[w]e have mounting evidence that children are in terror during court proceedings, especially those proceedings that involve evaluation of the child, separation from the ‘custodial parents,’ and disruption of the family unit.”8

The key for the child is an absence of conflict between the parents during and after the dissolution of marriage. The child must be shielded from all knowledge of the litigation and/or involvement in the litigation. The child should not be used as a messenger, or for the delivery of child support. The attorney needs to be aware of the client’s behavior and needs (i.e., feeling victimized, relying on the child as a confident, or the parent saying the child wants to speak to the judge) as they relate to the parent’s relationship with the child. Children know more than parents think they do, and if parents are not vigilant in insulating the child, the child will suffer. A parent who involves the child risks a court finding that the parent is acting detrimentally to the best interests of the child. Reading matter to recommend to the parents include Mom’s House, Dad’s House, by Isolina Ricci; Why Good Parents Have Bad Kids, by E. Kent Hayes; Growing up Divorced, How to Help Your Child Cope With Every Stage—from Infancy Through the Teens, by Linda Bird Francke, and Second Chances, Men, Women, and Children a Decade After Divorce, Who Wins, Who Loses—And Why, by Judith S. Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee.

Practical Implementation Techniques

Just as using “[p]etitioner is a fit and proper parent” no longer has any place in pleadings, as the Shared Parental Responsibility Act assumes that both parents are “fit and proper,” the words “custody” and “visitation” are anachronisms. Of concern is the legislature’s continuing use of these terms in new legislation. Even with definitions in F.S. §61.046, arguably these words should be excised from Ch. 61. They also should not be used by attorneys and judges in discussing parenting issues. Using new vocabulary as a matter of course allows for creation of a new business-like relationship between the parents—the business of parenting, and encourages the parents to work cooperatively in the best interests of the children. For example:

Where the child lays his or her head down more of the time—physical shared parenting—seems all important to parents uneducated as to the law in Florida, when, in the reality of the Shared Parenting Act, it is insignificant compared to the decisionmaking or legal shared parental responsibility portions of the act. “After considering all relevant factors, the father of the child shall be given the same consideration as the mother in determining the primary residence of the child irrespective of the age or sex of the child.” F.S. §61.13(2)(b)1. The “best interests of the child” test is the prevailing rule in the court’s decision; the judicial understanding of what constitutes best interests seems to have changed significantly.9 “Maternal preference has disappeared in the 1990’s, but it has been replaced by almost the same number of references to primary caretaker language.”10 In their conclusion to “Are Mothers Losing Custody? Read My Lips: Trends in Judicial Decision-making in Custody Disputes-1920, 1960, 1990, and 1995,” Mary Ann Mason and Ann Quirk provide that their study has shown that gender-neutral criteria, such as stability and time spent with the child are used more by the courts; however, there are those who argue that such criteria as time spent with the child or “primary caretaker” translates to maternal preference. That may be one explanation of why fathers have not gained more. Others have claimed that judges consider mothers more critically today. In a modern two-parent working family, mothers may be penalized for not staying home, while fathers, who may participate more than in the past, may be looked on more favorably even if they are not the primary caretaker. Perhaps “working mother” has replaced “moral unfitness” as a criteria for granting custody to fathers.11

Since the act presumes that the court should designate a primary residence for the child, the court must evaluate which parent provides for the best interests of the child pursuant to statutory factors. These criteria may apply differently to children of different ages. A judge may also look for the primary psychological bond as it relates to the statutory factors, sometimes also referred to as the “primary caretaker,” defined as the parent who has taken the primary responsibility for, inter alia, the performance of the following caring or nurturing duties of a parent: (1) preparing and planning of meals; (2) bathing, grooming and dressing; (3) purchasing, cleaning, and care of clothes; (4) medical care, including nursing and trips to physicians; (5) arranging for social interaction among peers after school, i.e., transporting to friends’ houses or, for example, to girl or boy scout meetings; (6) arranging alternative care, i.e., baby sitting, day care, etc.; (7) putting the child to bed at night, attending to child in the middle of the night, waking the child in the morning; (8) disciplining, i.e., teaching general manners and toilet training; (9) educating, i.e., religious, cultural, social, etc.; and (10) teaching elementary skills, i.e., reading, writing, and arithmetic.12

A judge may also apply “grandma’s criteria” as discussed by Richard A. Gardner, M.D., “Judges Interviewing Children in Custody/Visitation Litigation,” N.J.F.L. 1987:
These are the parental manifestations that grandma’s ghost would consider if it were free to roam the house and then report its findings to the Court. If she is like most grandmas, she does not have an M.D. or Ph.D. degree and has very little formal so-called “psychological sophistication.” She would observe the children from the minute they got up in the morning until they went to sleep. She would determine who wakes the children up in the morning, who gives them breakfast and prepares them for school. Of course, if father’s work requires him to leave so early that he cannot involve himself in these activities, this cannot be considered a deficiency on his part. This is similarly the case for spending lunch time with the children and being available after school. It is the after-work hours, when both parents traditionally are home, that Grandma would get her most useful information. She would want to observe who helps the children with their homework and if this is done smoothly or whether there are typically power struggles, tears, fits, tantrums, threats, impatience, and other manifestations of a poor-parent child relationship. She would observe disciplinary measures, especially whether they are humane, consistent, and benevolently administered. She would pay close attention to the bedtime scene . . . . Which parent has traditionally taken the child to the emergency room or the doctor’s office . . . . who are the adults involved in these various activities.

The “goodness of fit” doctrine may also be considered. This is based on research by Drs. Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess, two child psychiatrists at New York University Medical Center, which research has demonstrated that temperament is inborn and normal parents can raise children with psychological problems if the temperamental mix is not good. As provided to this author by Joel Klass, M.D.:
The self esteem of the offspring may be affected more or less by the degree of complementarily or resonance between the temperamental fit between the child and the parent. This explains why we sometimes see even disordered parents raising relatively healthy children, healthy parents having disturbed offspring, or why in the same family children may turn out so differently.

The judge looks at the life of the child from the child’s perspective: Where is it in the best interests of the child to lay his or her head down more of the time? This does not mean that the secondary residential parent is a lesser parent or has less control over decisions related to the child.

A major concern of the parent who is not living primarily with the child is not having the same access to information as well as the perception that primary residential parent means custodial parent. The law of shared parenting is clearly divided into decisionmaking (legal shared parenting) and how the parents share the time with the child (physical shared parenting). Both parents need to know that since 1982 both parents remain equal legal guardians of the child even after the dissolution of marriage and both parents retain the equal right, and responsibility, to make joint decisions regarding the child.

Although Florida law presumes the child should have a “primary” home, not equal physical timesharing, a recent legislative enactment allows rotating physical time as well, without definition or criteria for the court to determine whether to order this alternative. Arguably, the factors and special circumstances in Gerscovich v. Gerscovich, 406 So. 2d 1150 (Fla. 5th DCA 1993), and its progeny should still be proven. F.S. §61.121 and Beaty v. Gribble, 652 So. 2d 1156 (Fla. 2d DCA 1995) (“co-primary residence”).

The title of primary residential parent carries with it more burdens than benefits. The primary residential parent has the affirmative obligation and duty to 1) keep the other parent informed and involved regarding the minor child; 2) encourage and foster frequent and continuing contact with the child and the other parent; 3) encourage and foster the parent-child relationship between the other parent and the child; and 4) consult and confer with the other parent to make joint decisions regarding the child.13

There are practical ways for the parents to fulfill the obligations of shared parenting. Each parent can have an identical calendar (selected by the child) on his and her refrigerator, highlighting events and timesharing. Different color highlighters used by the parents and children can make this a regular family activity in mom’s house and dad’s house, updating notices, etc. This creates for the child an atmosphere of exchange of information, the consistency and stability of knowing the schedule, and the aura that the parents communicate directly with each other—which may not be the reality.

There are many ways to communicate and develop communication plans that work for both parties. For example, each party can keep an envelope next to that refrigerator and put notices, papers, report cards, and notes regarding the child to be sent to the other parent on a regular basis. Anything in writing should be business-like and professional—the profession of parenting. The parents should report information and always let the other parent know they have received a message; a message ignored is a message not received. Adjectives and personal attacks need to be deleted in oral and written communications.

Decisionmaking can be by scheduled mediation or telephonic communication on a set weekly or biweekly schedule following a strict formula: establish a time to set an agenda as the only purpose of the first call. This lets the other parent know the purpose of the subsequent call ahead of time. The first call is then to only provide notice of the issue to be discussed and to arrange a mutually agreeable time to talk. The subsequent call to discuss the issue should stick to the agenda. Independent investigation time is then accommodated. Emotional behavior can be controlled. Children can be kept out of hearing their parents’ conversation. Children need to know that parents make the decisions—children do not control, especially not whether they will spend time with the other parent or when.

. . . .And If You Must
Seek Court Intervention

Be careful when seeking court intervention to consider the best interests of the child by being specific and directive when requesting relief to limit the cost of litigation and preserve the marital estate.14 For example, instead of asking generally for psychological evaluations of the entire family, the attorney should consider seeking only initial clinical interviews to see what further testing or examination is necessary, if any. The attorney needs to be proactive, not reactive. Consult with a psychological professional prior to seeking relief from the court or defending the other party’s seeking relief from the court, and request specific testing related to the facts and circumstances of the parties and family. Decide if it is necessary that the psychological professional interview collateral sources. Consider the age of the child when asking that the child be tested. A complete discussion of alternative psychological interventions is beyond the scope of this article; however, if the child participates in psychological evaluation or therapy, be sure that the parents alternate taking the child, as who accompanies the child may impact upon the results.

Be circumspect in asking for an “in camera” examination of the child, as the dangers may outweigh the benefits in how your client is perceived by the court.15 Carefully consider seeking the appointment of a guardian ad litem, which may not be an automatic necessity.16 If both clients are out of control, your client will seem more reasonable to seek a guardian ad litem to protect the child. In most circuits, a guardian ad litem is an attorney who is appointed to promote and protect the best interests of the child. A guardian ad litem is also a hammer to keep the parents under control, as the job of the guardian ad litem is to investigate, report to the court, protect the child, and monitor the family.

Other interventions serve different purposes. Know which type of professional conducts the intervention, i.e., a home study or social investigation (of the family, relatives, neighborhood, and school) may be conducted by a social worker or an attorney. If the guardian ad litem report seems biased against your client, you might seek, and be prepared to pay for, a social worker with a different expertise also to investigate. An attorney who takes on contested parenting litigation should collect information about, and the location and quality of, anger management programs, substance abuse programs, parenting effectiveness training programs, vocational training programs, types of alternative psychological counseling and family therapy, supervised visitation centers, and other services available in the circuit.

The attorney should refer to F.S. §61.13 and the factors therein to determine when, how, and why to act to seek court-ordered interventions. For example, if the difficulty between the parents is legal shared parental responsibility—decisionmaking and one parent usurping control—seek communication training or developing a plan of communication through mediation or family therapy rather than a psychological evaluation. “Winning” in litigation of legal parental responsibility—decisionmaking—means the court may order ultimate responsibility first. The parents still need to confer, but, one parent is awarded “final word” regarding decisions regarding the child.17 Or, if it is detrimental to the child for the parents even to confer, then the judge may order that one parent have sole parental responsibility to make all decisions alone—not grant primary residence. Arguably, if the parent does not change his or her behavior after interventions and education as to the law, then the parent cannot fulfill the “friendly parent” provisions in F.S. §61.13(3)(a) and (j). A caveat about the interplay between domestic violence and these provisions is aptly described by Judge Mark Polen in Ford v. Ford, 22 Fla. L. Weekly 2078, 2080 (Fla. 4th DCA Sept. 3, 1997). See also F.S. §61.13(3)(k) and (l), newly enacted, and Moore v. Trevino, 612 So. 2d 604 (Fla. 4th DCA 1992).

An attorney needs to know the different relief to seek if the difficulties relate to physical shared parenting-timesharing. “Winning” in litigation of physical shared parental responsibility—timesharing—means the court may order compensatory time first—to make up for lost time, or set or change the timesharing schedule, not change the primary caretaker or psychological/bonded parent who is serving the best interests of the child.18 The attorney needs to correct any misconception at the onset of the legal representation that sole parental responsibility (“sole custody”) can be easily sought or ordered. Detriment to the child must be clearly proven before one parent loses his or her legal rights and privileges to parent.19

Conclusion

The judge needs as much information about the family as possible to protect the best interests of the child when the parents are involved in contested litigation over their child. The family will face interventions to seek to improve the parents, voluntary or court ordered. This litigation involves the attorney exercising “care, custody, and control” of the parent. A significant step is removing the antiquated concept of “care, custody, and control” of the child from the mind and actions of the parent, as well as the use of the words “custody” and “visitation” in pleadings and vocabulary used by attorneys and judges. Otherwise, most parents’ uneducated notions of “custody” and “visitation” will result in those notions becoming the practical reality for the parents and the children, contrary to the intent and purpose of the Shared Responsibility Act.

Mediation provides the mechanism with which parents retain their personal power to make decisions for themselves, their children, and their family. Attorneys need to advise the parents as to the wide discretion of the court and that the best resolution is one they make for themselves. If the parents choose to proceed to trial on parenting issues, they need to be prepared to realistically accept the consequences of putting their lives, their children, and their future in the court’s hands, as they will be totally abdicating control to a stranger to decide their fate and that of their children.

Shared parental responsibility is a unique concept, unique to Florida alone, which focuses on the best interests of the child and assumes both parents shall confer and cooperate and make decisions jointly, in a new business relationship, as co-parents. Unless properly educated and counselled about the realities of the Shared Parental Responsibility Act, parents will expend precious family resources to litigate over an insignificant title, “primary residential parent,” which carries with it no greater rights with regard to the child. This litigation is most stressful for the attorney, as well as the family, and early intervention is the key to assisting the parents and child. Treating litigation over issues regarding the child as interdisciplinary and litigation in which the attorney must be most knowledgeable and involved, controlling, improving, and rehabilitating the parent serves the best interest of the litigation and best interests of the child. q

1 See Isolina Ricci, Mom’s House, Dad’s House, Ch. 7 and Appendix VII, for a more extensive discussion of the emotional stages of dissolution and ideas for education of the parent.
2 Judge Anne Kass, Truthfulness and Accuracy in Divorce Cases, 15 No. 5 Fairshare 18 (May 1995), as cited in Kunzweiler v. Kunzweiler, 698 So. 2d 1251, 1254 (Fla. 5th D.C.A. 1997).
3 William O’Barr and John Conley, Lay Expectations of the Civil Judicial System, Law and Society Rev., Vol. 22, No. 1 (1988).
4 Finlay v. Finlay, 148 N.E. 624, 626 (N.Y. 1925); Frazier v. Frazier, 109 Fla. 164, 147 So. 464 (Fla. 1933).
5 Holland v. Holland, 458 So. 2d 81 (Fla. 5th D.C.A. 1984).
6 Canakaris v. Canakaris, 382 So. 2d 1197 (Fla. 1980).
7 In Re Guardianship of D. A. McW., 460 So. 2d 368, 369-70 (Fla. 1984).
8 Marsha Kline, Children’s Adjustment in Joint and Sole Custody Families, 25 Developmental Psychology 430 (1989), as reported on page 311 in Considerations in the Relocation of Children Following Divorce, 30 Fam. L.Q. No. 2 (Summer 1996).
9 Mary Ann Mason and Ann Quirk, Are Mothers Losing Custody? Read My Lips: Trends in Judicial Decision-making in Custody Disputes-1920, 1960, 1990, and 1995, 31 Fam. L.Q. No.2 (Summer 1997).
10 Id. at 224.
11 Id. at 235.
12 Garska v. McCoy, 278 S.E. 2d 357 (W. Va. 1981).
13 Schutz v. Schutz, 522 So. 2d 874 (Fla. 3d D.C.A. 1988); Gardner v. Gardner, 494 So. 2d 500 (Fla. 4th D.C.A. 1986); Hunter v. Hunter, 540 So. 2d 235 (Fla. 3d D.C.A. 1989).
14 Wrona v. Wrona, 592 So. 2d 694, 695-97 (Fla. 2d D.C.A. 1991); Katz v. Katz, 505 So. 2d 25, 26 (Fla. 4th D.C.A. 1987); Mettler v. Mettler, 569 So. 2d 496 (Fla. 4th D.C.A. 1990).
15 Walker-Seaman v. Garwood, 456 So. 2d 1331, 1332 (Fla. 5th D.C.A. 1984).
16 Mistretta v. Mistretta, 566 So. 2d 836 (Fla. 5th D.C.A. 1990).
17 Wheeler v. Wheeler, 501 So. 2d 729 (Fla. 1st D.C.A. 1987); Vazquez v. Vazquez, 443 So. 2d 313 (Fla. 4th D.C.A. 1983).
18 See Fla. Stat. §61.13(4) and Buttermore v. Meyer, 559 So. 2d 357 (Fla. 1st D.C.A. 1990).
19 Hicks v. Hicks, 511 So. 2d 628 (Fla. 2d D.C.A. 1987); Nichols v. Nichols, 432 So. 2d 648 (Fla. 1st D.C.A. 1983).

Judge Renee Goldenberg is a circuit judge in the 17th Judicial Circuit, Broward County, serving in the Family Division. She graduated summa cum laude from Nova Southeastern University in 1984, where she served as executive editor of the Law Review. Judge Goldenberg is a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Florida Chapter; a Florida Bar board certified marital and family lawyer, and a Supreme Court certified family mediator. She served as a member of the State Commission on Family Courts which recommended the institution of family divisions, and has served as an adjunct professor of law. Judge Goldenberg was the chair of the Family Law Section in 1995-1996 and has served as the editor of this column from 1989-1994.
This column is submitted on behalf of the Family Law Section, Deborah Brandstatter Marks, chair, and Mark A. Sessums and John S. Morse, editors.

[Revised: 02-10-2012]