As you prepare to discuss child custody and parenting time issues, either with your soon to be ex-spouse or with your attorney, there are a few fundamental basics you should know about Florida law, child custody, and parenting time.

Child Custody and Parenting Time in Florida

First, as a matter of public policy, Florida law states minor children should have “frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved.”  State law is specifically designed “to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys of childrearing.”  Consequently, parenting plans are written with an eye towards meeting these public policy goals.

Exceptions to Shared Child Custody and Parenting Time

Because there is a rule favoring frequent and ongoing contact with both parents, people often ask if there are exceptions to the rule.  The answer is yes, under limited circumstances.  Circumstances supporting an order where the parents don’t share responsibility for the child include where there is evidence that one parent has been convicted of certain domestic violence crimes.  However, this can be overcome, in certain situations.

Understanding the Parameters of “Shared Child Custody and Parenting Time”

In a perfect world, the parents, often with the assistance of counsel, together come up with a proposed parenting plan that the court then approves.  If the parents cannot agree on a plan, or if the court doesn’t approve of the agreed upon plan, the court imposes a parenting plan of their own.  In any event, it is important to understand that “shared” does not necessarily mean “equal.”  In Florida, the courts will consider the express desires of the parents.  Consequently, if the parents believe one parent should have ultimate responsibility for certain areas, the court may grant that request.  Alternatively, the court may divide responsibilities between the parents, in accordance with the best interests of each child.

Parents have several areas of responsibility when it comes to child rearing.  Responsibilities which may be joint or single responsibilities include education, health care, physical, emotional, and social well-being, and other areas unique to a given family unit.  Child custody covers decisions related to the children and their overall welfare.  Parenting time covers time spent with the children.  When parents share parental responsibility, both parents have full rights and responsibilities to and for the child.  Consequently, parents must communicate with each other and decide together major decisions affecting the welfare of their child.  Sole parental responsibility, on the other hand, indicates only one parent makes decisions regarding the minor child.

Understanding Parenting Time

Courts address parenting time with time-sharing agreements in the state of Florida.   Parents create a time-sharing schedule specifying the time each child spends with each parent.  This includes holidays and overnights.  Individual families (or the courts) craft time-sharing schedules with an eye towards suiting the needs of the family and the children.  Some families find every other week works for them.  Others prefer a 2-5-5-2 schedule.  Still, others divide parenting time between the week and the weekend.  There is no “right way” to craft a parenting time schedule.  There is only the right way to craft a parenting time schedule for you and your family.

If You are Considering Divorce

If you are considering divorce, you probably have a lot of questions.  At the Law Offices of Aliette H. Carolan, P.A., we have experience to help you solve your family law issues.  From considering child custody options to crafting parenting time plans, we have the experience you need to create a plan for you and your family.  Contact us at 305-358-2330 today to discuss your needs.

Additional Reading

Different Types of Child Custody

Understanding the Responsible Parent Act in Florida