One of the more common, and resilient, misconceptions in Florida family law is the myth that there is a presumption in favor of 50/50 time-sharing (formerly known as custody). While it is true that there have been some legislative attempts to create this presumption, no bill has become law that would create this presumption. There is a statement in Florida Statutes section 61.13 that it is the public policy of Florida that each child be permitted to have “frequent and continuing contact with both parents.” However, this is far from the creation of a presumption of a 50/50 time-sharing arrangement.
Instead, section 61.13 provides the judge a vast amount of discretion in determining the appropriate time-sharing (custody) arrangement for each case. Section 61.13 lists 20 factors that the judge is compelled to consider when making a time-sharing (custody) determination (see Frequently Asked Question: When can a child decide who to live with in Florida? for a more detailed discussion of those factors). Additionally, section 61.13 specifically declares that “[t]here is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child or for or against any specific time-sharing schedule.”
Part of what has caused confusion is the change from the prior term “custody” into two distinct, but related concepts of “time-sharing” and “parental responsibility.” As discussed above, the law does not create a presumption of equal time-sharing. The law does, however, create a presumption in favor of shared parental responsibility. Shared parental responsibility is the idea that both parents are equally involved in the decision-making as it relates to their children and that all decisions are made on a joint basis, or not at all. Shared parental responsibility does not mean that the time-sharing arrangement is 50/50. In fact, it is quite common for both parents to have shared parental responsibility while exercising a time-sharing plan that is far from 50/50.
While it is true that there is no statutory presumption in favor of a 50/50 time-sharing plan, some judges, in the exercise of their broad discretion, will favor time-sharing arrangements that are as close as possible to 50/50. On the other hand, some judges view 50/50 time-sharing plans more skeptically than other arrangements. Therefore, it is important to retain a Florida family law attorney, like those at Artemis Family Law Group, who are aware of each judge’s preferences and skepticism in a dissolution of marriage involving children or other family law cases concerning time-sharing disputes.