Child Custody and Time Sharing Misconceptions
“I want Full Custody”, “Florida is a 50-50 State” and Others
By Orlando Divorce Attorney Eduardo J. Mejias
Practicing Exclusively Family Law Since 2005
Issues Of Children Time Sharing Are The Most Contentious In Family Law
While divorces without children can be contentious, issues around the time sharing of the couple's children are the most contentious and represent the core of most family law disputes. Whether in a divorce or a paternity action, family law attorneys spend more time on children’s issues than any other topic. Likewise, for family law clients, the issues surrounding their children typically cause them to lose the most sleep. With that said, I want to clarify a few common misconceptions about this important subject.
There Is No Child "Custody" in Florida Family Law
First, let us refer to this issue by its proper name: “time-sharing” of your children. Though we sometimes speak generally of child custody, parents in family law cases have not had to fight for legal “custody” of their children since 2009. At that time, the Florida Legislature abolished the terms “primary custody” and “sole custody” in the context of divorces and paternity actions. It replaced these terms with the more neutral phrase of time-sharing. The Legislature no longer wanted the “non-custodial” parent to be burdened with the connotations of him or her being less important to their children.
While the primary custodial parent did not necessarily enjoy superior rights to the children, that label always carried with it the perception of a higher ranking. Hence, the change to the generic and inoffensive time-sharing. Today, even if you are granted the majority of time-sharing with your children, this does not mean that you obtain “custody” or that you enjoy a privileged status. It simply means the children will spend more overnights with you than with the other parent. Nothing more, nothing less.
There Is No Set Percent Of Time Sharing
However, this shift away from “custody” created the misconception with some parents that they are presumptively entitled to an equal, or “50-50” time-sharing schedule. Not true! Fueling this confusion is the movement in the Florida Legislature to pass a bill that creates a “rebuttable presumption” in favor of “50-50” time-sharing in divorce and paternity cases. In fact, Senate Bill 250, which would make this rebbutable presumption the law, is currently being discussed by the pertinent Florida Senate Committees. However, it has not become the law. While this bill does have merit, I will save my discussion about it for a later time.
As of the date of this writing (January 18, 2016), no presumptions in favor of any time-sharing schedule or parenting plan exist in Florida. Family law judges base time-sharing decisions on the particular facts of each case.
More specifically, they review the enumerated factors contained in Section 61.13(3), Florida Statutes. When I meet with a prospective family law clients who will be litigating time-sharing, I personally review with them these nineteen specific criteria (labeled a through s). To make matters even more complex, there is also a “catch-all” 20th factor, (t), which is “whatever else the court deems to be in the best interests of the child”.
Many Factors Affect the Percent Time Sharing Assigned to Each Parent
The lesson here is that there rarely are simple answers to time-sharing questions. No one factor, presumption, or event will dictate the outcome. Instead, a comprehensive review of the entire array of relevant facts is needed to make the final time-sharing decision.
Call Us To Schedule A Free Initial Consultation
If you have any questions about time-sharing the care of your children, please call AAA Family Law at (407) 260-6001 and schedule a free thirty-minute initial consultation. I will listen to the family law issues that affect you, describe the plan of action to help you achieve your objectives and protect your rights to the fullest extent of the law. Than I will quote you a fixed retainer fee, not an hourly rate whose total payment is unpredictable. I look forward to meeting you.
For more information on the retainer fees, included the ranges of these fees for each type of family law case, please click on Retainer Fees.