CHILDREN: SHARED PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY AND TIMESHARING
(Custody and Visitation)
In a divorce, paternity case, or other family law matter involving children, it is necessary to determine parental responsibility and timesharing. Florida law does not use the terms “custody” and ‘visitation.”
There is a legal presumption that parents of a child should have Shared Parental Responsibility. Shared Parental Responsibility, under Florida law, is defined as “a court-ordered relationship in which both parents retain full parental rights and responsibilities with respect to their child and in which both parents confer with each other so that major decisions affecting the welfare of the child will be determined jointly.” Courts may award one parent “Sole Parental Responsibility,” but it is rare. Sole Parental Responsibility is awarded only in cases where shared parental responsibility is not in the best interest of the child, and the court determines that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child. Except in the most extreme cases, parents will be awarded Shared Parental Responsibility.
As part of Shared Parental Responsibility, parents are required to protect their children from litigation and to refrain from making derogatory remarks about the other parent in the presence of the children. This can be difficult for parents, who may be hurting from the other parent’s actions or marital misconduct. It is, however, imperative that children not be used as the parent’s confidante or be required to take sides. Both parents should encourage the child to have a loving relationship with the other parent.
Instead of referring to a parent’s time with his or her children as “Visitation,” Florida refers to it as“Time Sharing.” In every family law case involving children, parents must have a Parenting Plan that includes a timesharing schedule. Parenting Plans are often very detailed and require considerations such as where the child will attend school, whether the child may travel out of state or internationally, how often the child will have regular contact with each parent, and holiday schedules. If parents are unable to agree to a timesharing schedule and Parenting Plan, the Court will consider the “best interests of the child” at trial and will enter its Parenting Plan.
Developing a Parenting Plan requires thoughtful consideration. As family law attorneys, we are keenly aware of issues that arise after the divorce is final, and we can help you avoid them. If you are facing a family law matter that involves your children, we can help.