The Time Has Come For Equal Custody Time-Sharing

Introduction To This Series

In this series we (a) explain the concept of "equal custody time sharing", (b) define a summarized proposal to implement this concept in Florida family law and (c) show the evidence that supports its benefits to the development of children of divorce and paternity in family law cases.  

Parenting Plan Is Fundamental for Divorcing Couples With Children 

While parents involved in divorce and paternity cases often deal with multiple litigation issues, the question of how to construct a fair and sustainable parenting plan usually commands the most attention. After all, how this critical issue is resolved will shape the psychological and emotional development of their children.  As if that were not enough, the makeup of the parenting plan affects how other family law litigation issues, such as child support, are resolved. Crafting the right parenting plan right is essential.

Creation of Parenting Plan Should Start With Equal Custody Time Sharing 

“O.K., where do we begin?” is the next question divorce and paternity clients will ask me regarding the parenting plan. Unfortunately, Florida does not have a “starting point” for the formation of a parenting plan. Every parenting plan must be drafted from a blank slate, as if we know nothing about what benefits children in general when it comes to how custody is distributed between parents.

However, there is ample evidence that shows that equal custody time sharing is the best approach.  Imagine if automakers suddenly forgot all accepted principles of automotive engineering when constructing a car, something that has been in mass production for over a century. Certainly, the abundant supply of new automobiles would vanish because Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota, Nissan and others would be “starting from scratch”.

“But, children aren’t cars!” you may retort. No, they certainly are not. They are more important than cars.  Yet, most legislators and family law judges are not familiar with the overwhelming evidence that children from broken families benefit from spending substantial amounts of time with both parents. Conversely, children who are raised by just one parent suffer much higher rates of just about every dysfunctional behavior.  Social scientists have known this for decades, as we show in The Evidence For Equal Custody Time Sharing.

This is why we propose that in family court trials of  divorce or paternity cases the law should instruct the family court judges to treat near equal time sharing (minimum of 45%-55%) as a rebuttable presumption.  This means that the burden of proof to deviate from this custody time sharing formula is on the party that proposes it.  This does not affect agreements reached during mediation.  But, we do recommend parents in divorce and paternity cases to settle on an equal or near equal distribution of the custody time. 

This proposal is in line with the general doctrine of Florida family law that grounds decisions about divorcing parents on what is "in the best interest of the children".  And it has enough flexibility to account for cases where one parent:  (1) cannot, in practice participate in equal sharing for reasons beyond his or her control or (2) is deemed by the court to be positively harmful to the children.  These are general summary terms used only to explain the concept behind the law.  The actual text of the law may use different technical legal terms. 

On the pages below: (1) we provide you with extensive evidence from scientific studies showing the benefits of equal time sharing to the development of children of divorced parents and (2) plausible reasons why equal child custody time sharing also helps the divorced parents.  

By Family Law Attorney Eduardo J. Mejias, Practicing Family Law Only Since 2011