(*IT IS NO LONGER CALLED “CUSTODY” IN FLORIDA)
When minor children are involved, whether in a dissolution of marriage (divorce) case or in a paternity case, decisions must be made for how the parents will share time with them. The term “custody” is no longer used in Florida law; the time each parent spends with a child is now referred to as “time-sharing”.
A time-sharing arrangement is set out in a “parenting plan” which defines how much contact each parent has with the child(ren). Time-sharing is calculated by the number of “overnights” each parent will have. The number of overnights is a factor in determining the child support that a parent who has minority time-sharing (less than 50% of overnights with the child) will pay-the fewer the overnights, the higher the child support.
TIME-SHARING VS SHARED PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY
Time-sharing is different from “shared parental responsibility”. Shared parental responsibility means the parents will be jointly responsible for making major decisions for the child, including medical treatments, child-care, and education. The court will order that the parental responsibility for a minor child will be shared by both parents irrespective of time-sharing. This only changes if the court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child.
Ideally, the parents will agree (often with the help of an experienced Family Law Attorney) to a time-sharing/parenting plan that allows them to spend time with the children and meets the child’s best interests. Florida’s objective is that each minor child should have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing.
The State does not give preference to either parent and there is no presumption for 50-50 timesharing.
WHAT IF THE PARENTS CAN’T AGREE?
If the parents cannot agree on a time-sharing plan, the court will establish the plan. The judge’s primary focus will be to determine what is in the children’s best interest and welfare. While there is no presumption of 50/50 timesharing, judges start with the premise that each parent should spend as much time as possible with the minor child or children, unless there is a reason that the parent is unfit or unable to spend time with them.
HOW WILL THE JUDGE MAKE HIS/HER DECISION?
The factors the judge will consider in determining time-sharing include:
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
- The moral fitness of the parents.
- The mental and physical health of the parents.
- The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
- Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
- Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.
Time-sharing issues are the most difficult and painful aspects when parents separate. An experienced family law attorney can provide direction and assistance in helping parents reach a time-sharing agreement that is in the best interests of the child(ren) and allows parents to share the rights, responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing.
To schedule a FREE consultation with one of our experienced Family Law Attorneys, call us at 305-653-5555- our receptionists are available 24/7. Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, P.A. has been representing families throughout South Florida for over 35 years. Read what our clients have to say here.