5 key changes to Florida's timesharing laws
Timesharing, or custody, is often litigated between parents. A proposed new law seeks to reduce the number of custody battles by making it easier to parents to share time with their children. The following is not legal advice but an attempt to share the key changes to Florida's timesharing laws.
A premise that children spend nearly equal time with both parentsCurrently, a judge can decide how much time each parent spends with his/her child. Judges have historically favored Mothers, especially of infants and pre-school age children, and Fathers have had less time with their children. Florida's proposed law would create a rebuttable presumption that spending nearly equal time with both parents is best for children. There are exceptions to this, and a judge must still look at what is in the best interest of the child. But parents would come to court with the presumption that they are equally capable of taking care of their child or children.
Judges must give reasons for not giving parents nearly equal timeCurrently, a judge has very wide discretion and does not need to explain his/her decision in deciding a timesharing schedule. A judge only has to say that he/she believes the timesharing schedule is in the best interest of the children. Under the new law, if a judge wants one parent to spend less time with the children than the other parent, the judge must explain his/her reasons in writing. This does not mean that the judge has to give a long and detailed explanation of each and every reason, but the judge has to state the reason why one parent has less time with the child or children.
A child's best interest is still the standardCurrently, a judge must make a timesharing decision based on what is in a child's best interest. The judge has to look at over 20 factors in making the decision. Under the new law, a judge will still have to do that, and will have to look at additional factors such as whether the parents want nearly equal timesharing and if the parents live close enough to each other for equal timesharing to work.
Exceptions in cases of abuse and neglectIt is important to understand that this is a presumption and not a requirement in every case. The new law does not mean that parents have equal timesharing in every case. There are cases where nearly equal timesharing would harm a child, such as situations where there is physical abuse, addiction or neglect of the child. There are also cases where one parent cannot spend nearly equal time with a child, because of work obligations or the parents live too far apart from each other for nearly equal timesharing to work. A judge has the authority to award less than equal timesharing in those cases, and in any situation where the judge feels it would not be best for the child.