What Factors Does a Florida Family Law Court Consider When Determining a Time-Sharing Schedule?
A common question asked by individuals faced with an initial divorce or paternity action is: how does a court decide the time-sharing schedule between the parents and minor children? Florida courts no longer determine "custody" over children, and instead establish a "parenting plan" and "time-sharing schedule." The short answer to this question is, the court should order a time-sharing schedule that serves the best interests of the minor children. In order to assist courts in making such determinations, the Florida Legislature has enacted § 61.13, Florida Statutes. Ideally, a parent that will be facing a parenting and time-sharing dispute should familiarize themselves with this statute as soon as possible, and collect and preserve evidence that relates to these factors for use in their case. Per § 61.13, Fla. Stat., the factors that a court should consider when determining how much over-night time-sharing each parent should receive in a time-sharing dispute include:
(a) 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 bereasonable when changes are required.
(b) The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to whichparental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
(c) 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.
(d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
(e) 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.
(f) The moral fitness of the parents.
(g) The mental and physical health of the parents.
(h) The home, school, and community record of the child.
(i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
(j) 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.
(k) 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.
(l) 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.
(m) 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. If the court accepts evidence of prior or pending actions regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, the court must specifically acknowledge in writing that such evidence was considered when evaluating the best interests of the child.
(n) 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.
(o) 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.
(p) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child's school and extracurricular activities.
(q) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
(r) The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigationas 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.
(s) The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child's developmental needs.
(t) Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.
This extensive list of factors that the court should analyze is merely a starting point, and any factor affecting the best interests of any minor children should be considered. A parent with knowledge of these factors prior to the development of a parenting or time-sharing dispute is best equipped to litigate an initial divorce or paternity matter.
Attorneys practicing family law, who have knowledge of the rules of evidence, and the investigatory and discovery tools available to litigants pursuant to the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure and Florida Statutes, can advise parents not only as to the law and their options, but also as how they should conduct themselves in the course of an often hostile or combative relationship with a co-parent, in order to achieve the best possible outcome in court, in light of the above-referenced factors.
If you are faced with a case involving contested time-sharing or are thinking about separation or divorce, it is important that you hire an attorney well-versed in family law and uniquely aware of the type of evidence that must be presented to support the above-referenced factors. Jeffrey Law, PA, stands ready to assist. Contact us at: Office@RSJLegal.com or 305.222.7921, to schedule a consultation.
Robert Stone Jeffrey, Esq., is an attorney admitted to the Florida Bar in 2010, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and the Supreme Court of the United States. Mr. Jeffrey has experience handling complex and high asset family law disputes, and has authored chapters in various publications relating to Florida family law. Mr. Jeffrey is currently a member of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar Rules and Forms Committee. More information about Mr. Jeffrey, and Jeffrey Law, PA, can be found at www.rsjlegal.com. Mr. Jeffrey has been awarded an AV Rating by Martindale-Hubbell (2017 - 2019), as "Peer Rated For Highest Level of Professional Excellence." Robert was awarded a 10/10 rating by Avvo.com, and various client reviews can be accessed through that platform. See https://www.avvo.com/attorneys/33134-fl-robert-jeffrey-3341362.html.
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