August 26, 2022
When families with a child (or children) split up, custody of that child becomes perhaps the most important aspect of the divorce proceedings. During these proceedings, Florida judges must contemplate what’s in the best interests of the minors and set a time-sharing schedule based on the evidence presented by both sides.
A child custody attorney helps a parent or guardian secure time-sharing terms that allow them to continue actively participating in their child’s life.
What Is Time Sharing?
Time-sharing is part of a custody arrangement and refers to how much time each parent or guardian will have to spend with their child. Considering the child’s best interests as a guiding principle, the court creates a parenting plan with a time-sharing schedule.
Not too long ago, mothers were routinely the presumed custodial parent, and fathers had to petition for visitation. Nowadays, the law recognizes that children thrive when both parents play an active role in their development and that the previous practice of granting a default judgment in favor of the mother was not always the best decision.
Creating a Time-Sharing Schedule
The court weighs many factors when creating a time-sharing schedule and parenting plan. Of utmost concern from the beginning is the suitability of each parent or guardian to be granted shared custody.
Suitable parents are those who do not represent a detriment to the child. In contentious divorce struggles, one side may have their child custody lawyer present evidence that the other parent or guardian is a detriment to the child.
When this occurs, an experienced child custody lawyer can help the accused parent refute the charges.
Evidence of an unfit parent may include:
- Drug use by the parent or in the home
- A record of child neglect or abuse
- A history of criminal convictions
- Ongoing alcohol abuse
Criminal records, convictions of misdemeanors in the first degree, child abuse, specific sexual crimes, and other serious crimes create a rebuttable presumption of detriment to the child.
A child custody attorney can help clients overcome these presumptions in some circumstances and get them back into their child’s life.
In most cases, both parents are fit to continue raising the child.
So the court moves on to other factors that will help set the parenting plan and time-sharing schedule, such as:
- The ability and willingness of each parent to contribute to their child’s growth
- The proposed terms of the time-sharing schedule
- The ability and desire to put the child’s needs first
- The current moral fitness of each parent
- The geographic impact of the schedule
- The mental health and physical fitness of each parent
- The preference of the child, if reasonable
- The child’s home, school, and community record
- Evidence of detrimental criminal behavior
The court will also determine the capacity of each parent to be a guiding and disciplinary force in the child’s life.
Majority Time Sharing
This form of time sharing allows the child to spend more nights with one parent than the other. This parent serves as the primary residential parent but may still share parental responsibilities, such as the decisions about school and medical treatment, equally with the other parent.
Equal or Shared Time Sharing
Under this form of time-sharing, the child spends an equal number of nights at both parents’ residences. Parents have options for structuring the arrangement. One week on and one week off is a common way parties schedule things.
Legislation proposing mandated equal time sharing in divorces made it through the Florida legislature, but the governor vetoed it in the summer of 2022. Critics say the law would have done away with judicial discretion and jeopardized the child’s best interests.
Supervised Time Sharing
Supervised time sharing is for instances where one parent has a demonstrated history of behavior that would be detrimental to the child, such as child abuse, sexual abuse, or substance abuse.
The agreement includes limited visitation rights for one parent and requires the presence of a supervisor during visits. Supervised time-sharing agreements are usually temporary and may evolve into equal time-sharing, most notably when a child custody attorney presents evidence that the parent would no longer be a detriment to the child.
Modifying a Time-Sharing Schedule
Parents may seek to modify their time-sharing schedules but may only do so under specific circumstances. First, the court will only modify time-sharing agreements when one or both parties show a substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances.
Changes in circumstances that might allow for a time-sharing schedule modification include:
- A criminal conviction
- Relocation of one of the parents
- A change in the educational or health needs of the child
- A parent’s change in employment
When determining whether a modification is appropriate, the court will again use the child’s best interests to guide it, employing the same factors that established the initial time-sharing agreement.
As with the creation of the initial time-sharing schedule, the modification of one may also go much better for the parent with an experienced child custody lawyer.
After a modification, it’s hard to modify the time-sharing agreement again, so a child custody lawyer will fight for a workable deal that will last.
Enforcing a Time-Sharing Schedule
No parenting plan or time-sharing schedule will work without some corresponding method of enforcement. Sadly, in some time-sharing cases, one or both parties violate the terms of court orders or refuse to abide by a mandated time-sharing schedule, which ultimately threatens the child’s best interests.
Of course, time-sharing agreements require flexibility. A parent running late on one occasion should not have to face a charge of violating the terms of a time-sharing agreement.
If one party violates the terms of a time-sharing agreement, the other party can have a child custody attorney file a motion of civil contempt against the party demanding that they comply. Failure to obey the order could lead to time behind bars, fines, court costs, and child custody attorney’s fees.
If you are dealing with issues related to time-sharing, contact an experienced child custody lawyer for help.