Family LAw

What are the custody laws in Florida?

Child custody is a legal term used to describe the legal and practical relationship between a parent and their child. In Florida, we call this timesharing. Florida law requires a timesharing schedule to be included in the parenting plan that specifies the time, including overnights and holidays, that a minor child will spend with each parent.

Florida courts describe custody of children as timesharing.

A timesharing schedule is a “timetable that must be included in the parenting plan that specifies the time, including overnights and holidays, that a minor child will spend with each parent.” See Florida Statute §61.046(23). Even if agreed to by the parents, the schedule must still be approved by the court. If the parents cannot agree, or if they agree but the court does not approve their schedule, then the Court itself is required to establish the time-sharing schedule. See Florida Statute §61.046(23)(b).

Do Courts give preference to one parent over the other?

No. There is no presumption in favor of the father or mother when creating a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule. See Florida Statute §61.13.

Increasingly, more households now have both parents working full-time with each parent exercising equal responsibility for the care of their child. Courts are favoring a closer-to-equal or even equal timesharing schedule.

Best Interest of the Minor Child

The best interests of the child are the primary consideration in determining parental responsibility and creating a parenting plan, including a time-sharing schedule. See Florida Statute §61.13(2)(c). In determining a child’s best interests, a trial court must consider the current, not the prospective, interests of the child. See Preudhomme v. Preudhomme, 245 So. 3d 989 (Fla. 1st DCA 2018).

The child’s best interests are determined “by evaluating all of the factors affecting the welfare and interests of the particular minor child and the circumstances of that family.” These factors include, but are not limited to, the following statutory factors:

  • (a) The demonstrated capacity 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.
  • (b) The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
  • (c) 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.
  • (d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
  • (e) 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.
  • (f) The moral fitness of the parents.
  • (g) The mental and physical health of the parents.
  • (h) The home, school, and community record of the child.
  • (i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
  • (j) 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.
  • (k) 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.
  • (l) 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.
  • (m) 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.
  • (n) 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.
  • (o) 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.
  • (p) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
  • (q) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
  • (r) 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.
  • (s) The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.
  • (t) Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time sharing schedule.

Can a Timesharing Schedule be Modified?

Yes. Timesharing schedules can be modified upon the showing of a substantial change in circumstances since the date of the original order, and said modification is in the best interest of the child. Click on the following link for more information on modifying timesharing schedules: Changing your Visitation Schedule in Florida

If you have questions about establishing a timesharing schedule or modifying a timesharing schedule, it’s best to ask a qualified family attorney. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.

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