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Understanding Child Custody in Florida

Child custody can be an emotional subject for soon-to-be divorcing parents. Nevertheless, it is important for you to understand how courts view timesharing in order to be better prepared to handle this matter during your Florida divorce. If you or someone you know is having child custody issues with a former spouse – or soon to be ex-spouse – contact a compassionate and knowledgeable Orlando child custody attorney right away to learn about your rights and obligations under the law.

What is a Parenting Plan and Timesharing?

In Florida, a parenting plan is mandatory in all cases involving time-sharing (known as child custody) with a minor child or children, whether or not the time sharing is in dispute by the parents. A parenting plan spells out in great detail how the parents will look after the child or children after a divorce. This document covers many issues including general and holiday time sharing, child care, travel (local, national and international), and education. The parent who has the majority of the share of parenting time with the child or children is referred to as the “majority parent.”

Unlike other states, Florida has eliminated the term “child custody” and, instead, uses “time sharing” to describe the concept of each parent spending a certain amount of designated time with his or her child. Initially, the details of this schedule – known as a “parenting plan” – is left to the parents unless the case is highly contested. In a scenario where the parents cannot agree on timesharing, the court will ultimately make this decision for them. Should a court decide on the timesharing schedule, it must determine this according to the best interest of the child and within the guidelines of Florida Statutes 61.13. “Best interest of the child” is the legal standard by which a Florida court must decide all matters relating to minors in a divorce case and is detailed in 61.13(3), Florida Statutes.

Factors A Court Considers for Time Sharing

Factors a court must consider when determining which parent will be the “majority parent” on a case include, but are not limited to:

  • which parent is more likely to not interfere with the bond between the child or children and the other parent;
  • the ability – and not necessarily the better financial capacity – for the parent to provide the child or children with the necessities such as food, medical care, clothing and other remedial care;
  • the affection, emotional ties and love that exist between the child and the parent;
  • the moral fitness and character, physical and mental health of the parent;
  • the child or children’s home, school and community record;
  • the time during which the child has lived in a stable and satisfactory home environment, and whether or not it is in his or her best interest to remain in this environment;
  • whether or not the child possesses sufficient experience, understanding and intelligence to verbalize a parental preference and, if he or she does, the reasonableness of this preference will be taken into account;
  • any evidence that a party knowingly provided false information to the court regarding a domestic violence proceeding;
  • any evidence of domestic violence or child abuse; and
  • any other factors that the court may deem relevant in the matter.

Contact an Orlando Attorney

Time sharing can be a touchy subject, especially in a highly disputed divorce case. Nevertheless, understand that you have the right to see your child or children and a former spouse cannot block access. If you or someone you know is experiencing pushback regarding this sensitive issue in Florida, do not try to fight this on your own. The skillful law office of Steve W. Marsee, P.A. services the greater Orlando area with decades of family law experience. Call the office at 407-521-7171 or contact us today for an initial free, and private, review of your particular case.

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