Are There Different Types Of Custody Available Under Florida Law?
When the average person talks about children in a divorce, they usually refer to the parent having the majority of the time as the parent with “custody” and the other parent as having “visitation”. In Florida, however, the terms “custody” and “visitation” are no longer used. Rather they are referred to as “parental responsibility” and “timesharing” in this state. Under the law, both parents typically have equal decision making rights over the major aspects of their children. This is also what is called “shared parental responsibility”, as compared to “sole parental responsibility”, where only one parent would make all the decisions regarding a particular aspect of the child. This could involve specific issues regarding education or health of the child and which doctor to use, as examples. If the parents cannot agree, then the judge may appoint one parent sole parental responsibility to make those particular decisions.
When the word “custody” is used, many people think of it as who is going to have the child the majority of the time. In Florida courts that is referred to as “time-sharing”. It is the schedule of where the children are going to spend the nights. There is a schedule that is established, called the “time-sharing schedule”, which specifies which nights are with mom and which are with dad. There are many different schedules and variations that can be put in place. A good timesharing schedule will be specific and address details like birthdays, holidays, vacations, school breaks, etc.
What Do Those Potential Time-Sharing Agreements Potentially Look Like?
Every divorce case in Florida involving children must have what is called a “Parenting Plan” established, which sets forth parental responsibility, time-sharing and other details. Generally, both parents are awarded shared responsibility over the decisions, and it also sets forth the visitation schedule or the time-sharing schedule. It must be specific and must have a default schedule in place.
In Palm Beach County, there is what is referred to as a “model parental time-sharing” schedule. Other jurisdictions have their own defaults but a normal schedule might be something like alternating weekends and sometime mid-week timesharing, for example.
Mid-week time-sharing can be either equal or it can be more nights with one parent over the other. The default model parental time-sharing schedule in Palm Beach County grants one parent with the majority of the time – every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday overnight. Every single Thursday overnight would go to the other parent. One parent might have the children Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday and the other parent would have every Thursday and then alternate weekends.
Other families may decide that equally dividing the time would be best for their children. More and more families are moving towards fifty-fifty time-sharing schedules. If you feel 50/50 is best, perhaps your schedule might have the children with mom every Monday and Tuesday, and with dad every Wednesday and Thursday overnight. As you can see there are many different possibilities but every schedule has to take into consideration what is best for the child and what makes the most sense for the family.
Parties are expected to be reasonably flexible, but there also must be a default schedule in place to avoid conflicts for those times when the parties cannot agree. The courts are going to hope the parents can work out any issues amongst themselves. If you can, great. The parents are always free and able to agree amongst themselves to any visitation schedule and the courts are more than likely going to have no problem with that. However, if for some reason a conflict arises and the default schedule cannot be complied with, it is the responsibility of the parent who has the child to make arrangements to find childcare while he or she is unable to follow the schedule.
Another very important factor to consider when establishing a time-sharing schedule is the total number of overnights the children will be with each parent. Each parents’ total number of overnights will have a direct impact on the amount of child support. The more overnights a child spends with one parent the more credit that parent gets in regard to child support. So, a father who has the children only 80 overnights per year will pay more child support than if he had the children 150 overnights per year.
For more information on Child Custody Under Florida Law, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (561) 893-9993 today.
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