Child custody, technically called “time-sharing” in the state of Florida, is one of the most emotional, and often, contentious issues that can arise for parents and children when couples divorce or separate. Florida’s child custody laws are oriented towards shared parental responsibility but ultimately guided by considering what is in the “best interest of the child” in accordance with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.
Understanding time-sharing and Florida’s child custody laws, and the factors that affect legal determinations under this act, can help prepare those involved to best protect their own rights and those of their children. In all cases, it is best to have a professional family law attorney experienced in child custody and timesharing law in the state of Florida to represent you.
What Is Legal Custody?
Legal Custody gives a parent legal and physical custody of a child/children and the right to make major decisions on such matters as the child’s long-term place of residence, education, health, and religious instruction. Sole Legal Custody or sole parental responsibility provides this right to one parent, while Joint Legal Custody gives it to both parents to be shared equally. Florida uses terms like “sole parental responsibility” and “time-sharing” or “shared parental responsibility” to convey these concepts.
Determining Factors for Time-Sharing Decisions in Florida
Adhering to the principle of “best interest of the child” and Florida law (Florida Statutes – Chapters: 61.13), Florida courts work to ensure that each minor child has regular ongoing contact with both parents following their separation or dissolution of marriage. They encourage both parents to share in the responsibilities and privileges of parenting and give fathers the same considerations as mothers when determining the primary residence, after considering all relevant facts, regardless of the child’s age or sex.
There are about twenty determining factors that the court bases its decisions on.
- Consideration of the capacity and disposition of each parent to encourage and allow open and frequent access to the child, follow the time-sharing agreement be adaptable to potential future changes.
- Consideration of the anticipated parental responsibilities of each parent and third parties, such as grandparents, based upon things like work schedules and other factors.
- The disposition and capacity of each parent to put the interest and needs of the child first vs. acting out of self-interest
- The child’s current primary caretaker, living environment, whether it is stable, how long the child has been in living in their current environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
- Keeping siblings together
- The geographic viability of the parenting plan based upon where each parent resides, proximity to schools and other factors.
- The physical, mental and moral fitness of each parent. This will include all known health issues and may require psychological evaluation.
- The home, school and community record of the child
- The child’s preferences, if he or she is mature enough to self-evaluate
- The demonstrated knowledge and capacity of each parent to be informed about the child’s friends, teachers, healthcare, every-day activities and favorite things
- The capacity of each parent to provide routine and structure for the child, including discipline homework, meals and bedtime schedule.
- The disposition and capacity of each parent to communicate responsibly with the other parent to keep them advised of important issues and activities and to act in a unified manner on decisions that affect the child.
- History and/or evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child neglect, child abuse or child abandonment, including any falsification of court notification of such issues
- The customary parenting tasks performed by each parent
- The capacity of each parent to be involved in the child’s extra-curricular activities
- The capacity of each parent to provide a substance-abuse free environment for the child
- The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from future litigation by not discussing it and avoiding making disparaging remarks about the other parent.
- The ability of each parent to meet the child’s ongoing developmental needs.
- Any other relevant factors that might affect the time-sharing plan.
Call Parra Harris Law for Help with Child Custody and Time-Sharing
The courts will always evaluate all criteria in summary fashion. There is no single controlling factor. Due to this, you will want to have a Florida family law attorney experienced in child custody and time-sharing to help you through this challenging time. In Jacksonville, call the family law lawyers at Parra Harris Law at (904) 900-1617 or email us at [email protected]