When Florida couples with children divorce, a judge is required to use certain statutory factors to determine how the children will spend their time with each parent. The ultimate goal for the judge is to apply these factors to determine what resulting situation will be in each child’s best interest and help them to maintain contact with each parent if it is appropriate for them to do so. While it is common for many former couples to maintain an equal timeshare over their children, it is not necessarily a guarantee that the judge will rule that this arrangement is in the child’s best interest.
A new law that was recently passed in the Florida Senate may change how judges are told to review child custody matters, which could have a large impact on how custody timeshares are handled in the state. The proposed law makes it mandatory for judges to presume that children will be best served by having equal access to both parents on a regular basis in a 50/50 timeshare. This presumption, however, is just a starting point. Judges will then be able to evaluate the individual situations of each family using additional statutory criteria to determine what their custody arrangements should be.
Opponents to the law believe it prejudices judges and may hinder their willingness to stray from the 50/50 timeshare baseline, which may put some children at risk by being with parents that would have previously received a different custody arrangement. Some opponents also believe there is not enough evidence to support the presumption that an equal timeshare is even in a child’s best interest. However, the bill passed the Senate 23-15 and is now awaiting action from the House with other proposed divorce and alimony laws.
Child custody and divorce matters can be emotionally charged, complicated issues that may be difficult for people to satisfactorily navigate by themselves. Therefore, they may find it beneficial to talk with an attorney to determine how they wish to proceed.
Source: Miami Herald, “Florida Senate passes bill that helps give divorced parents equal time with children,” Feb. 23, 2016.