South Florida Time-Sharing and Child Custody Attorney
Child custody, known as time-sharing in Florida, is a complex decision made by family courts involving a combination of time-sharing (visitation) schedules, parenting plans, and child support payments. The entire process can be a painful, emotional, and even traumatic experience for everyone involved, including the children. The South Florida child custody lawyers at The Joseph Firm work to minimize the pain and stress experienced during this trying time as we work on behalf of our clients, building a strong case for the court. As we go through this process, we encourage you to understand basic information related to time-sharing proceedings.
In time-sharing proceedings, the court decides all matters relating to parenting and time-sharing of each child based on the best interests of the child and in accordance with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.
In the state of Florida, it is public policy that each child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or divorce. The court will order that the parental responsibility be shared by both parents unless it is found that shared responsibility would be detrimental to the child:
- A parent is deemed detrimental to the child if he or she has been convicted of a misdemeanor of the first degree or higher involving domestic violence.
- Once the court advises a convicted parent that he or she has been deemed detrimental to the child and the parent does not refute that claim, shared parental responsibility, including time-sharing with the child, and decisions made regarding the child, may not be granted to that parent. However, the parent is still required to pay child support.
- Whether or not there is a conviction of any offense of domestic violence or child abuse, and whether or not there is a restraining order for protection against domestic violence involved, the court considers evidence of domestic violence or child abuse as evidence of detriment to the child.
Both parents have the right to access information pertaining to their children in time-sharing proceedings, such as school, medical, and dental records, unless a court order specifically revokes these rights, including any restrictions on these rights in a domestic violence injunction.
In time-sharing proceedings, the court will establish a parenting plan. A parenting plan is a document, or information included in a settlement agreement, that outlines how the parents will parent their children following a divorce. A parenting plan approved by the court must describe in detail:
- How the parents will share and be responsible for the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the child;
- The time-sharing schedule arrangements that specify the time that the minor child will spend with each parent;
- A designation of who will be responsible for any and all forms of health care, school-related matters including the address to be used for school-boundary determination and registration, and other activities; and
- The methods and technologies that the parents will use to communicate with the child.
In order for the court to modify a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule, the parent must show a substantial, material, and unanticipated change of circumstances.
When a parent refuses to honor the time-sharing schedule in the parenting plan without justification, the parent whose time-sharing rights were violated must continue to pay any ordered child support or alimony. Similarly, one parent cannot refuse visitation to the other for failing to pay child support. When a time-sharing schedule is violated, the court:
- Will award the parent denied time a sufficient amount of extra time-sharing to compensate for the missed time
- May order the parent who violated the time-sharing schedule to pay court costs and attorney’s fees incurred by the other parent to enforce the time-sharing schedule
- May order the parent who violated the time-sharing schedule to attend a parenting course or perform community service
- May, at the request of the parent who did not violate the time-sharing schedule, modify the parenting plan
When determining the best interests of the child, the court evaluates all of the factors affecting the welfare and interests of the child and the circumstances of that family, including, but not limited to:
- The demonstrated capacity of each parent to encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, honor the time-sharing schedule, and be reasonable when changes are required;
- The demonstrated capacity 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 environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity;
- The geographic reasonableness 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 carry out the parenting plan;
- 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 and capacity of each parent to be informed of the child’s circumstances, including, but not limited to, his or her friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things;
- Each parent’s demonstrated ability to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse;
- Each parent’s demonstrated ability 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 making negative comments about the other parent to the child; and
- The developmental stages and needs of the child, and the demonstrated ability of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.
There are many other complex, nuanced factors involved in child custody proceedings. The Joseph Firm is dedicated to building these unique factors into the strongest possible case for our clients and their children. To schedule a free telephone consultation with a South Florida custody lawyer, please call (305)-501-0922.