Time-sharing formerly known as custody and visitation in the State of Florida pertains to the division of the hours, weeks and years during a child’s childhood which is expected to be shared between the child's co-parents. The parental plan is the document usually in the form of a contract that dictates how both co-parents will divide the time of the child. It also lists where a child may live, study, and enjoy holidays throughout each year. Currently, in Florida there is a presumption that equal timesharing is in a child's best interest unless the presumption is overcome by a preponderance of evidence.
Florida statute 61.13 exacts that all time-sharing plans ensure a child’s safety and stability while minimizing the disruption and loss they may feel from the separation of a home shared between his or her parents. Factors for the creation of a timesharing schedule to be incorporated into a parenting plan are taken into consideration but they always are driven by the best interests of the child. Such factors include:
(a) The demonstrated capacity and disposition 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.
Time-sharing is the only measure that ensures a child’s bond with both co-parents is preserved. It may be established by the Court or the parents directly. However, when co-parents cannot easily resolve the matter of time sharing and prepare a mutually agreeable parenting plan, they may leave it to the Court to prepare.
Not all time-sharing is distributed equally. Sometimes, a co-parent is given majority time sharing referring to the co-parent who retains the majority of overnights with a child (50.1% or more). For example, a co-parent with whom a child enjoys four (4) or more overnights or more per week.
Should disputes result in allegations of family violence, then the co-parent’s ability to exercise shared parental responsibility or the ability to make joint decisions concerning the major concerning a child may also be affected especially if a domestic violence conviction of either co-parent (i.e.; a misdemeanor - results).
All matters of time-sharing can be arduous for a child. While the ideal would be for the co-parents to harmoniously establish a parenting plan that takes the child’s best interest into consideration, the disputes that caused the separation to arise in the first place may hinder that process. It is the Court’s intent to protect the child from getting caught in the middle.
It is in this area that consulting with our experienced team can assist in overcoming the seemingly overwhelming task of establishing common ground on what is best for your family going forward. Our staff is prepared to help you navigate this process in the most effective and informed method possible. All these steps may appear stressful, but our team is committed to ensuring that the process goes smoothly and as stress-free as possible for you.
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