Time Sharing (Child Custody)

Table of Contents

In family law matters where children are concerned, frequently, the emotions, issues, and anxiety experienced by individuals involved are heightened. Understandably, when it comes to these matters, the most important considerations relate to each parent’s contact with their children; otherwise known as time-sharing.

What Is Time-Sharing?

Time-sharing in Florida is the legal concept pertaining to how time spent with the children will be split between divorcing or separating parents. Time-sharing is what many people refer to as “custody.” Thus, Florida law uses the term time-sharing to describe each parent’s contact with their children. Florida specifically replaced the concepts of “custody” or “visitation” with that of time-sharing so as to focus on the idea of sharing time with children, rather than having custody or ownership of them. Florida’s policy regarding time-sharing is that “each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents.”

Importantly, Florida recently enacted a new law that supports equal time-sharing with the children by both parents. Beginning on July 1, 2023, Florida law states, “Unless otherwise provided in this section (Florida Statutes section 61.13) or agreed to by the parties, there is a rebuttable presumption that equal time-sharing is in the best interests of the minor child.” This means unless a parent can show that it is more likely true than not that an equal time-sharing schedule would not be in their child’s best interest, then an equal time-sharing schedule would be deemed appropriate.

What Is Shared Parental Responsibility?

Shared parental responsibility is the other component relating to parents and their children. Parental responsibility involves how parents will make important decisions regarding their children. Florida strongly believes that both parents should not only share in the responsibility, but also in the joys, of raising their children. Therefore, the norm is shared parental responsibility, where both parents share in the decisions affecting their children. Only in fairly rare circumstances, i.e., when the court finds that shared parental responsibility would be harmful to the children, is shared parental responsibility not ordered.

What Is Considered In Determining Time-Sharing?

Where minor children are involved, the most important consideration is the best interests of the children. The best interests of the children are the paramount factor in determining each parent’s time-sharing. Unless the parents come to an agreement about time-sharing, then the court must evaluate 20 factors in the statute (Florida Statutes section 61.13)affecting the best interests of the children.

What Is A Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is the most important document in a family law case that involves minor children. Florida requires a parenting plan be developed that describes in detail parental responsibility and the time-sharing schedule which specifies the time a child will spend with each parent. Along with parental responsibility and an ongoing time-sharing schedule, a parenting plan should also address various other aspects such as holiday time-sharing, extracurricular activities, education, travel with the children, etc. Further, every parenting plan must be approved by the court. The court has the absolute final say on issues involving minor children. Thus, even where parents agree to a parenting plan, the court has the power to determine that the particular parenting plan is not in the best interests of the children and refuse to sign off on the parenting plan.

Life circumstances can frequently change and time-sharing schedules may need adjustments because of these changes. Because a parenting plan will affect both parents and their children long after the finalization of their case, thoughtful deliberation is required in developing a time-sharing schedule. Please contact us to discuss further any questions or concerns about time-sharing and your children. Please click here in order to schedule a consultation at your convenience.

Frequently Asked Questions

The short answer is – No.  In Florida, there is no such thing as “full custody” or even, “custody.”  Florida refers to the  contact parents have with their children following a divorce or separation as “time-sharing.” In some circumstances, a parent may be awarded sole time-sharing or majority time-sharing (but see below regarding Florida’s equal time-sharing presumption). Additionally, Florida strongly believes that both parents should have frequent and steady contact with their children. Thus, Florida courts disapprove of parents using the term “my children,” suggesting ownership.  They prefer that the parents always refer to children as “our children.”

The short answer is – Yes. Florida recently enacted a law regarding parents’ contact with their children that significantly changed the law. The new law provides that parents should have equal time-sharing with their children. In order to overcome this presumption of equal time-sharing, the parent objecting would have to show through a “preponderance of the evidence that the equal time-sharing schedule would not be in the child or children’s best interests.

The short answer is – None. Many people mistakenly believe that at the age of 15, a child can make the decision as to which parent he or she would like to live. However, in Florida, if the parents cannot come to a full agreement about time-sharing, then the court must evaluate 20 factors in the statute to establish a time-sharing schedule that is in the best interest of the child. Out of the 20 factors, only one relates to the court considering a child’s preference: Factor (i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the child deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference. However, there is not a particular age when the court would allow a child to make the ultimate decision about time-sharing.

The short answer is – It depends. Courts generally do not want to have children testify, especially about the child’s preferences regarding time-sharing. The reason behind this is that courts do not want to place a child in the very uncomfortable and difficult position of “selecting” one parent over the other. Moreover, frequently, parents may try to persuade a child to testify in their favor or a child’s preference may change depending on which parent he or she is angry with at the time. A child’s preference is one of the factors that may be considered in establishing a parenting plan; however, as in each situation the court makes a determination about time-sharing based on the specific facts of each case.

(Also see above regarding age a child can decide which parent to live with in Florida)

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