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Reasonable time sharing for special needs child

Orlando, FL |

What would a reasonable time sharing schedule look like when the child has serious medical needs and the parent seeking visitation, who lives 243 miles away from the child (4 hour drive) disregards those needs? (child has severe allergies, asthma, & rare digestive disorder & non-custodial parent continues to expose child to known allergens, ie. cigarette smoke, cologne, etc)Are the child's medical needs considered when the court makes a parenting plan? Additional facts to consider include:

1. Although the NCP knew of our child since I was 3 weeks pregnant, he provided no support nor took any active role (rather, he suggested abortion instead)

2. NCP was ordered to pay child support & medical insurance when the child was 2 years old. He's paid the child support only to avoid driver's license suspension or to reinstate his drivers license after it was suspended because he got behind on his payments. (His license is currently suspended due to this.) He's never paid for medical insurance.

3. Although he had plenty of opportunity, he did not seek any contact or a relationship with our child until she was almost 12 years old. She is 13 now. At that point, she had already formed a father/daughter bond with her step father, whom she has called Daddy for the last 3.5 years.

4. The child's medical needs include severe allergies, severe asthma & a severe rare digestive disorder for which she takes multiple medications and sees several doctors on a regular basis.

5. Child doesn't want forced visitation but prefers to get to know the NCP at her pace and in familiar environments. She also is not comfortable being alone with him since she doesn't know him very well. He also makes her feel uncomfortable because he often makes comments about her family (ex. He tells her that her step father, whom she is close to since he, the NCP, was never there for her, is not a real father. He also tells her that it wasn't like he abandoned her because he didn't have a real relationship with me, her mother & we were only together once.) Comments such as these cause her stress which worsens her medical conditions and cause her to doubt herself and her family (self-esteem issues)

6. Although I've given him any visitation he has requested (which has only been 5 times), it seems he is seeking formal visitation & possible joint custody now out of spite because the child prefers the family who has raised her & supported her when he was not there for her. She is also seeking to add her step-father's last name to hers because she wants to share the same name as her brothers. She has never had the last name of her biological father.

I don't want to cut him off from her but he does not put our child's best interests, desires, or needs above his own. I want to be reasonable and balance what she needs versus what he's asking us for.

Ms. Cryer is correct. This would be the initial petition regarding paternity. There's never been a time sharing or parenting plan. I've heard that it would be best to allow the biological father to file this action so I have not filed it. He has not yet filed for this. However, because we have filed to change my daughter's last name from my maiden name to my current married hyphenated name ("maiden name+husband's name") at my daughter's request so she can share my name again & the same name as her little brothers, the biological father has vowed to file for visitation as well. He's hired a lawyer to fight the name change & we're awaiting the mediation date (within the next 30 days). I assume he'll be filing the paternity & visitation petition in the next few weeks.

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Attorney answers 3


Parenting and time-share plans are supposed to be very child/family specific. If you are undergoing that formal process, be sure to provide all information and documentation of special care, medical needs and service providers to the evaluator so all of the child's needs and concerns are addressed. At 13 her wishes need to be heard, but they are not terribly influential on a decision. It is impossible to give you any estimate on specific time-sharing without lots more information.

You know the child best. I sugget you write out a plan you see as optimal for gradually increasing visitation that considers the child's needs first while keeping in mind the father's distance and frequency of contact. If the child has a therapist or counselor get input from them regarding the plan.

Also, since he is not paying support regularly, be sure to ask that the father bear the burden of getting back and forth to see her. If you'd like to have a low cost phone consultation, I may be reached at (904) 419-8417. Good Luck!

Please keep in mind that this is an educational response based on a very limited amount of information. This exchange is not legal advice and does not create an attorney client relationship. I provide low cost phone and face to face consultations. Contact me at (904) 419-8417. If you found this answer helpful, please click on the "Best Answer" or "This was Helpful" button.


Is this an initial Petition Regarding Paternity? In other words, while there was a child support order entered many years ago through DOR, there was never a time-sharing or Parenting Plan entered through family court? Is he the one petitioning the Court now for a Parenting Plan? There are many issues the Court would take into consideration when fashioning a time-sharing schedule: the special needs of the child, the distance, the length of time he has not sought court relief, etc. I would be happy to consult with you to discuss what assistance I can offer you in this matter.

Gwen J. Cryer
Attorney at Law
1507 Park Center Dr., Suite N
Orlando, FL 32835
Telephone (407) 370-9661
Fax (407) 370-9480


In addition to my colleagues above answers with which I agree, the medical conditions of your child may warrant a suggestion of supervised visitation in the beginning to make sure that the child is not exposed to allergens or stress.

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