The relationship with your children is one of the most precious and meaningful connections that you will ever have. The time you spend with them is crucial to building that relationship. If you and the other parent of the child are not together, then you will likely need to share that time. While some couples can successfully co-parent without getting the court involved, many simply cannot come to an agreement. When this happens, a judge will decide the amount of time that you get to spend with your kids. In coming to that decision, the judge will look at several factors, some of which are explained below. While preparing for your custody case, you should familiarize yourself with these factors so you can place yourself in the best possible position to get the most time with your kids.
Before going into the time-sharing factors, you will first need to understand how custody works in Florida. While many people believe that the court will always give custody to the mother, that is simply not true. The law in Florida says that when deciding matters of child custody, the judge is to look at what is in the best interest of the child. So if your ex has a significant drug problem or cannot provide stable housing, then the court will likely not award them custody, even if she is the mother. In fact, the law in Florida says specifically that:
There is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child or for or against any specific time-sharing schedule when creating or modifying the parenting plan of the child.
Because the law does not allow the judge to favor the mother or father, a list of factors was created that the court uses to decide how time is shared. While no one factor is more important than the others, it is important that you look at them all to best prepare for your hearing.
Factors That The Court Will Consider
Florida law outlines 20 different factors that the court will look at in deciding how much time you will get with your children. Remember, the overall focus of the judge when making this decision is what is in the best interest of the child. As a result, before your hearing, you will want to make sure that you do not say or do anything that will make the judge believe that you do not have your child’s best interest at heart. The 20 factors are:
- Your ability to promote a healthy parent-child relationship and to stick to the time-sharing schedule. Parents that can show their willingness to work together will be favored over those that cannot. Sticking to the schedule is one way to do that, but being flexible when necessary also matters.
- How you plan on splitting up parental responsibilities and assigning them to third-parties. The court will look at how you plan to handle your parenting responsibilities. Frequently passing off your responsibilities to a nanny or babysitter may not look good in the eyes of the judge.
- Your ability to consider your child’s needs and place them above your own. Being able to put your child’s needs first is necessary to successfully parent. Parents that show they cannot do this may get less time with their kids.
- How long your child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment. Kids often thrive in stable environments. Uprooting a child from such environment should be avoided if possible.
- Whether your parenting plan is possible given the location of where you and your ex live. The physical distance between where you and your ex live will be considered. If you live hundreds of miles from your ex, then alternating nights or weekends may not be possible. This is especially true if your kids are currently in school.
- Your moral character. Your kids look up to you. As a result, you must be able to show that you are a good role model.
- Your mental and physical health. If you are not mentally or physically healthy enough to care for your kids, then you may get less time with them.
- The home, school, and community history of your child. How your child behaves will be considered. Constant disciplinary actions will not look good in the eyes of the court.
- Where your child wants to spend their time. Where the child would like to spend their time will be considered, if reasonable. The preferences of older children will likely be given more consideration.
- Your ability to show that you are involved in your child’s life and social activities. Being able to show that you are actively involved and knowledgeable about your child’s life will be beneficial to your custody case.
- Your ability to provide a consistent routine and schedule for your child. Kids often thrive when they have a consistent routine. Having a schedule in place or a proposed plan for the child’s daily activities can help you show this consistency.
- Your ability to keep your ex informed on the issues and activities of your child, along with your willingness to commit to a united front on major issues. Pitting your child against your ex might come off as you not having your child’s best interest at heart. Working with and communicating with your ex when dealing with issues is preferred.
- Instances of domestic violence, sexual violence, and child abuse. Clearly violence in the home will raise a red flag for the judge. Evidence of any violence or abuse can be considered even if no charges have been filed.
- Whether you have intentionally provided false information to the court concerning domestic violence or child abuse. While lying to the court will certainly hurt your chances at getting time with your child, it may also be a crime.
- How you and your ex had split up parenting responsibilities before and during your custody hearing. The court will look at how you and your ex split up the parenting responsibilities in the past to see if that should continue or change. If things are going well, the court may be reluctant to upset that arrangement.
- Your ability to show that you are actively involved in your child’s school and extracurricular activities. Being willing and able to be involved in your child’s schooling and outside activities will always help your chances of getting more time with your child.
- Your ability to maintain an environment for your child that is free from substance abuse. Drug or alcohol use around your children is not seen as in their best interest by the court.
- Your ability to protect your child from ongoing litigation. Shielding your child from your custody battle is important to their development. Just as important is avoiding making any negative comments to your child about your ex.
- Your ability to meet your child’s developmental needs. As your child grows, their needs will change. Your ability to adapt and meet those changing needs will be a factor in how much time you get with them.
- Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.
Florida Custody, Time-Sharing Attorney
Concerned about you or your children’s other parent meeting Florida’s time-sharing factors? If protecting the rights to see your children is your aim, then you should reach out to an experienced family law attorney for direction. They can give you the peace of mind in knowing that someone with knowledge of Florida’s custody and time-sharing rules is on your side and representing your interests. The custody attorneys at The Joseph Firm, P.A. have extensive experience in helping parents protect their rights to their children. We are here for you. For a free telephone case evaluation, call The Joseph Firm, P.A. at (305) 501-0992 or contact us online.