Not long ago, the Florida legislature decided that the term “custody” carried with it a prejudicial and negative connotation when discussing a parents time spent with a minor child pursuant to a court order. In so deciding, the Florida legislature sought to eliminate the term “custody” from the Florida Statues and replaced that concept with “timesharing.”
Know Your Rights
The Courts will not decide timesharing of children who have attained the age of eighteen (18).
In deciding what the timesharing schedule should be, the Courts will generally enter a “Parenting Plan” which will outline the specific timesharing schedule each parent is to exercise. The Court’s sole standard in deciding this issue is what is in the child’s “best interest.” This “best interest” standard includes the following:
(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 be reasonable when changes are required.
(b) The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
Your Attorney’s Obligation To You
Your attorney’s obligation is to be your staunchest representative and an officer of the Court. We will provide you with the most practical and straightforward advice available in assessing each client’s situations and goals.
Attorney Client Privilege
In Florida, the attorney-client privilege is codified in Section 90.502, Florida Statutes. This law states that, generally, communications between a client and their attorney are confidential. In other words, without a legal waiver or other specific exceptions, you and/or your attorney cannot be compelled to disclose communications made in performing our services.
Relationship Based On Trust
From the initial consult through the final hearing, it is of the utmost importance for attorneys and clients to be truthful with one another and for there to be trust between them. The pair are a team and trust is essential. We believe in being transparent with our clients and we cannot afford to be surprised at any time in a case because a client has failed to be transparent with us. If the idea should ever cross your mind and you question, Should I tell my attorney this? The answer should always be, Yes – we are available to then tell you if “this” may be an issue.
Your Attorney’s Role
An attorney may have several roles throughout a case, especially in family law. We may be your representative, your advocate, your advisor, an/or your counselor.
(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 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.
(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.
As you can see, this list is fairly exhaustive and open ended. Timesharing is frequently the most contentious and time consuming issue we encounter. Timesharing issues can arise in divorce (dissolution) actions, paternity actions, guardianship actions, custody by extended family member actions, and even domestic violence actions.
A timesharing schedule or parenting plan may control a myriad of situations and issues involving the co-parenting and shared parental responsibility of minor children. To begin with, when the court states that parties have “shared parental responsibility” of a minor child, this means the parties are to discuss and agree amongst themselves as to major issues affecting the minor child. This would include the child’s religious upbringing, educational choices, and medical choices (such as vaccines).
It is possible that the court direct that one parent solely have the authority to make such decisions – this is “sole parental responsibility.” Oftentimes “sole parental responsibility” is awarded when one party can show the other party has abused, neglected, or abandoned the minor child. Other circumstances may be appropriate for an award of “sole parental responsibility” as well, however, the Court will consider such a request after a heavily fact intensive inquiry on a case-by-case basis.
Please reach out to our office and schedule a consult with Mr. Gregory M. Ruster, Esq. and/or Mr. C. Garrett Gaa, Esq. to discuss your specific situation and what facts and factors may affect any timesharing issue you may have. Our experience and knowledge in child custody and family law in Lakeland FL and beyond will be to your benefit.