When determining child time sharing in Florida, the best interest of the child is the guiding principle used by the courts. In most cases, it is in the best interest of the child to have both parents play an active role in his or her upbringing. To facilitate participation and a close relationship with each parent, Florida’s legislature discontinued the use of “child custody” in favor of a time-sharing agreement. Time-sharing is much more flexible than custody arrangements. Therefore, both parents can continue to be involved in their child’s life even after the marriage or the relationship has ended.

Factors Considered by the Courts When Deciding Time Sharing Issues

The court will always determine what is in the child’s best interest and act to protect the child when deciding the terms of a time-share agreement or parenting plan. Therefore, most parents find it advantageous to work together to propose a mutually agreeable time sharing plan that demonstrates their ability to work together for the best interest of the child.

Time-sharing plans that parents develop are often better suited to the family’s unique dynamics and needs. Agreements decided by a judge after litigation may not be the best solution for all parties. However, when parents simply cannot agree on a mutual time-sharing plan, the judge will hear the evidence and make the decision for the parties.

Furthermore, it is much less costly to negotiate an agreement than to litigate the matter in court. Court battles can be lengthy and require the testimony of various witnesses including doctors, friends, childcare providers, relatives, and psychologist.  If you can, avoid the trauma that a court battle may cause for your child that can foster a closer relationship with each parent.

Factors a judge may consider when approving a time-sharing agreement or deciding the terms of an agreement when the parties cannot reach an agreement include:

  • Can each parent encourage a close child-parent relationship with the other parent?
  • What will be the division of parental responsibilities for each parent?
  • What are the abilities of each parent to determine the child’s needs and provide for those needs (i.e. food, shelter, clothing, medical care, etc.)?
  • Does the child have siblings, step-siblings, or other family members that the child would benefit from maintaining a close relationship with after the divorce?
  • Does the gender and age of the child impact the parenting plan?
  • How long has the child lived in a healthy, stable environment? Does it benefit the child to continue this arrangement?
  • What is the physical health of each parent? Does either parent have any mental impairments that impact the ability to care for the child?
  • What is the moral fitness of both parents?
  • Is there any evidence of domestic or child abuse?
  • Is there evidence of alcohol or drug abuse by either parent?
  • Does the child have a preference? The court may or may not give weight to the child’s preference depending on numerous factors including the age of the child.
  • Did either parent intentionally provide false information to the court related to a domestic violence allegation?

The judge may also consider any other factors that the judge deems relevant to determine what is in the child’s best interest.

Who Has Legal Custody and Physical Custody?

Under a time-sharing or parenting plan, neither parent has sole legal or physical custody. When the Florida legislature changed the laws related to custody in 2008, it deleted any reference to custody, visitation, and primary residence. Courts now order shared parental responsibility where both parents share the parenting duties and make decisions for their child together. In some cases, a court may award sole parental responsibility and give one parent the sole discretion for making decisions about the child’s health care, education, religion, and day-to-day activities.

There is no presumption in Florida that favors one parent over the other in timesharing matters. It is implied that the courts prefer both parents to be involved in the day-to-day lives of their child unless there is a specific reason for the court to order otherwise. Therefore, detailed parenting plans and time-sharing agreements define the role of each parent and how parenting responsibilities will be divided.

Contact a Palm Beach County Parenting Plan Attorney for More Information

Contact the Law Offices of Paul J. Burkhart, PL by email paul@paulburkhart.net or telephone (561) 880-0155 to learn more about how our family law attorneys can help you protect your interest and your child’s interests in a time-sharing arrangement.