One of the most emotionally charged issues in a divorce or paternity case is custody of the children. Typically, both parents want to spend as much time as they can with the children, and agreeing to a time-sharing arrangement is not often easy. As of October, 2008, the Florida Statute concerning custody was revised and now, in all cases with minor children, regardless of whether the parties are in divorce proceedings or if they were never married, the court requires a parenting plan. The parenting plan describes how the parents share parental responsibility and are responsible for daily tasks associated with the upbringing of children, the time-sharing schedule arrangements specifying the days, times, and holidays that the children will spend with each parent, and designates which parent is responsible for health care, school-related matters, other activities, and the methods and technologies that the parents will use to communicate with the children. Also, there is no longer a designation of “custodial” parent or “primary residential parent”. The parents are now both awarded time-sharing with the children.
The best interests of the children is always the primary consideration when developing a parenting plan, whether parties are establishing or modifying shared parental responsibility, or creating, approving, or modifying a parenting plan. The express statutory factors are as follows:
- 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 to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child.
- 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, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought.
- 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.
If you would like to look at the Parenting and Time-sharing statute in its entirety, please go to Florida Statute Section 61.13.
Courts are always very concerned with making sure that the decisions that are made keep the best interest of the children in mind. At The Women’s Law Group, we will explain how the Court examines the time-sharing factors in making its decision, and we work hard to ensure that the best interest of the children are met.