Child Custody and Timesharing in Florida Explained
In Florida, if you are unmarried and have a child but do not have a legal timesharing (child custody) plan in place, it may be beneficial to get one. If you are married and are contemplating divorce then timesharing will be decided during the divorce proceedings.
A legal timesharing plan establishes clear boundaries and imposes real consequences for those that violate it. Additionally, a legal time sharing may protect your children and/or provide them stability in their lives.
In Florida “child custody” is known as “timesharing” and is controlled by § 61.13, Florida Statutes.
How is timesharing (child custody) decided and what is the “best interest of the child” standard under Florida law?
Florida law states that “the best interest of the child” is the “primary consideration” when the judge is creating or modifying parental responsibility and creating, developing, approving, or modifying a parental plan , including a time-sharing schedule. See § 61.13(3)(a)-(t), Florida Statutes.
The “best interest of the child” standard is very fluid, meaning it is not a black and white test. Instead, Florida law requires the judge to take a variety of factors into consideration, including the “welfare and interests of the particular minor child and the circumstances of that family”.
Moreover, § 61.13(3)(a)-(t), Florida Statutes contain all of the factors that the judge must consider when deciding on a parenting plan and answering the best interest of the child question. The factors include, but are not limited to:
- 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.
- The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
- 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.
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
- The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan.
- The moral fitness of the parents.
- The mental and physical health of the parents.
- The home, school, and community record of the child.
- The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Evidence of domestic violence or child abuse or neglect.
- 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.
- 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.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
- 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.
- The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.
- Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.
How do I legally modify a timesharing plan in Florida?
If you have a permanent timsharing plan in place, but for some reason you want to change or modify it you should consider the following. In Florida, before a judge can modify an existing timesharing plan, you must show “a substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances and a determination that the modification is in the best interests of the child.” See § 61.13(3), Florida Statutes.
In other words, to successfully have a judge change or modify a timesharing plan you must show a change in circumstances that is 1) substantial; 2) material; and 3) unanticipated. You will also need to show that the modification you want is “in the best interest of the child”, which as explained above, will impact the above factors.
Consideration for Fathers/Paternity
If you are the father of a child, and never married to your child’s mother or are not the legal father of the child, then you need to have a court determine you are the actual father of the child, before you can get timesharing rights.
This process may be relatively simple, if the child’s mother is cooperative. If she is uncooperative or opposes you having legal rights that come with being the child’s legal father, then a formal hearing may be required.
Need a Florida Child Custody and Timesharing Attorney?
At The Law Offices of Scott J. Kalish we have the experience to represent you in your child custody or timesharing case. We represent people throughout South Florida, specifically Broward, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, Martin, and St. Lucie Counties.
With our main office conveniently located in Coral Springs, and other office locations throughout South Florida we are never far. If you have a question about your family law or child custody matter, or any other matter, reach out to us today for help.