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Do this, don't do that

Our neighbors to the north of Charlotte County -- Sarasota County and DeSoto County -- are two-thirds of the 12th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida. If you travel a bit further up the coast, you come to the third section of the circuit in Manatee County.

The court's family division has on its website a number of excellent forms and brochures for parents going through divorce. The court gives parents advice and guidance as they work with their family law attorneys on parenting plans to be discussed and negotiated with their spouses, and eventually submitted to the court. One of the family plan forms includes a list of "do's and don'ts."

Among the things the court advises divorced parents to do is "maintain health communication with your child(ren)." While your love of your child might well make that instruction fairly easy to follow, the struggles you have had with your ex-spouse might make the next suggestion difficult to adhere to: "Make it a priority to communicate regularly with the other Parent."

The court understands, as experienced family law attorneys do, that maintaining a civil relationship with your ex enables you to be a better parent more fully informed about your child's life and feelings. It also allows you to serve as a role model. Who better for a child to look to than a parent for an example of how to deal with disagreements and disappointments in life?

A couple of "don'ts" on the court's list: "Edit, coach, monitor or otherwise interfere with the child(ren)'s communication with the other parent." Let your kids tell their story to the other parent, just as you want their unvarnished, unedited version of events, people and emotions, too.

Don't be uncooperative, the court urges. When parents fail to cooperate, their kids suffer the consequences.

The job of the courts in child custody disputes is to decide matters in the best interests of the children involved. If you cannot resolve child custody, parenting, visitation and other matters with your ex, an experienced family law attorney can help you get through the process, whether in negotiations or litigation.

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