Child custody (now referred to as “time-sharing”) in Florida refers to the legal arrangements made for the care and control of minor children following a divorce or separation. In Florida, there are two main types of custody: time-sharing and parental responsibility.
Time-Sharing refers to where the child will physically reside. In Florida, a child can reside solely with one parent or shared between both parents (can be equally or otherwise as agreed to by the parents or ordered by the Court).
Parental Responsibility refers to a parent’s decision-making authority over the child’s upbringing, including decisions about education, health, and religion. In Florida, parental responsibility can be shared by both parents or given to one parent, who is referred to as the “primary residential parent.”
What does a Court look for?
When deciding child custody arrangements in Florida, the court considers the best interests of the child, taking into account factors such as the child’s relationship with each parent, each parent’s ability to provide a stable and nurturing environment, and any history of abuse or neglect. If parents are unable to agree on a custody arrangement, the court will make a decision based on the evidence presented. In such cases, it’s important to have an experienced family law attorney to represent your interests and help you navigate the legal process.
In Florida, child custody orders can be modified if there is a significant change in circumstances, such as a move to a different state or a change in a parent’s job or living situation. In such cases, a motion to modify the custody order must be filed with the court.
Understandably, timesharing is one of the most emotional issues many parents face during a divorce. When I was going through my divorce with my son’s dad, worrying about where my child would live kept me up most nights. In the end, we came up with a solution that was best for my baby boy and he’s been amazing ever since.
When the Court decides…
Unfortunately, not everyone is able to communicate and come to a compromise. If the Parties are unable to agree on a time-sharing schedule or parenting plan for their children, then the Court will consider the statutory factors outlined in Florida Statutes, Section 61.13 to determine a plan that is in the child’s best interests. These factors are as follows:
- 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 anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
- The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child.
- The moral fitness of the parents.
- The mental and physical health of the parents.
- The home, school, and community record of the child.
- The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
- The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
- The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.
- Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought. If the court accepts evidence of prior or pending actions regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, the court must specifically acknowledge in writing that such evidence was considered when evaluating the best interests of the child.
- Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
- The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
- The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.
- The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.
- Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.
The Court’s goal is to do what’s in the best interest of the child. Courts require that each parent demonstrate the ability to provide a consistent routine and the oversight to facilitate the completion of homework, provision of proper meals, and bedtime activities. Parents are also required to keep each other informed about pertinent issues and adopt a unified front on major issues when dealing with the child. It is always a good idea for each parent to not share information or documentation with the child or on social media. And please… as much as you feel you are backed by fact: don’t make disparaging comments about the other parent to the child. It serves no purpose other than to create an added stressor on the child.
Ultimately, time is apportioned by the discretion of a judge. It should be noted that gender preference has been abrogated by the Florida court system. That means that. although the mother was usually awarded the majority of custody in years back, now, a father may be awarded primary residence if there is sufficient evidence that he is a better parent than the mother.
Making parenting plans and time-sharing schedules work successfully depends heavily on having an agreement that is customized to address the specific needs and goals of your family. This is why we take the time to get to know about your family situation so we can ensure the best possible outcome for your child and your family. It’s so important to find the right Florida divorce lawyer to take the time to create a unique strategy designed to protect your interests in court. If you’re currently planning to file for divorce and are concerned about having your interests represented, reach out to us for a consult.