Overview of Florida Custody Laws: What You Need to Know about Time-Sharing
Florida custody laws are in a constant state of flux. Whether you are a newly divorced dad confused about your father’s custody rights in Florida or a working mom who wants to know how custody laws will impact your ability to work and take care of the kids, you need to understand the basics of time-sharing.
Florida’s New Child Custody Laws Eliminate Old Terminology
A few years ago, Florida law classified parents into two groups: the “primary residential parent” and the “secondary residential parent.” Lawmakers wanted to do away with this nomenclature, since it assumes that one parent is more important than the other. Likewise, the new laws have eliminated the term “custodial parent.” Now, all parents are simply known as “parents.” This makes things easier and cleaner – and certainly more equitable.
Time-Sharing – Factors That Could Be Relevant
As any experienced Florida custody attorney will tell you, the factors that can influence the time-sharing schedule are diverse and nuanced. And once a plan has been put into action, it can be ferociously difficult to change. As the Florida statute puts is: “a time-sharing schedule may not be modified without showing substantial, material and unanticipated changes circumstances and a determination that the modification is in the best interest of the child.”
In other words, you want to get it right the first time!
Here are some factors that help determine the best interest of the child, according to the law:
- Your ability and disposition to “consider and act upon” your child’s needs as opposed to your own needs;
- Your moral fitness;
- The “geographic viability” of any time-sharing plan that you and your spouse develop;
- Your physical and mental health;
- Your child’s preferences;
- Your capacity to provide discipline, nutritious meals, scheduling, and routine;
- Any evidence that the child has been neglected, abandoned, abused or subjected to any kind of violence;
- Any evidence that you or the other parent lied to the court, particularly with respect to questions of child neglect, abandonment or violence.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
Some disputes over child custody need to be settled in the Florida Court System – there just isn’t any other practical way. However, most disputes over time-sharing can be resolved without resorting to expensive, draconian and costly court intervention.
Two potentially useful forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution include mediation and parenting coordination.
In mediation, an objective party, known as the mediator, helps to coordinate the time-sharing plan. Mediation is often less costly, less caustic, and faster than going through the courts. A great mediator can help you and the other parent find surprising “win-win” solutions, even if you are at loggerheads about other issues pertaining to the divorce.
In this form of ADR, a third-party, known as the parenting coordinator, teaches parents about the needs of children and how a divorce can influence them. The coordinator keeps the parents focused on the interests of the children and provides coaching and communications help. Coordinators can also help create “set in stone” rules about visitation and drop off times.
Implementing a Successful Parenting Plan
Your kids are constantly changing and growing, as is your relationship with them. It’s difficult enough even for married parents to manage these challenges, which transcend issues like scheduling and visitation and cross over into more core areas, like values. The “moving parts” that go into a well executed parenting plan are diverse. Fortunately, you can lean on outside resources to coordinate, negotiate, and streamline your plan.
For help with time sharing, connect with a Florida custody lawyer at J. Scott Gunn, P.A. For over 18 years, our experienced Fort Lauderdale family law attorneys have been helping moms and dads like you solve their problems and get fair treatment. Call us today for a free consultation: 866-286-4530.