If you are the parent of a child in Florida and you are entering into a divorce with the other parent or may have never been married in the first place, there is a good chance that you might be a bit confused when you see the phrases “time sharing” and “parental responsibility” being tossed around, and wondering what they would have to do with the more familiar concept of custody with which we are all familiar. The short answer is that the term “custody” is no longer officially used by Florida courts – although it is quite often used by attorneys and those in the divorce process – and “custody” has been replaced by the concepts of time sharing and parental responsibility in Florida law. Below is a brief description of what those concepts mean and what you as a parent of a child should know about pursuing your parental rights under Florida law.

Time Sharing in Florida

Time sharing under Florida law refers to the plan that parents reach with one another — or which is imposed by the courts when the parents cannot agree — regarding how much time the child should spend with each parent and under what circumstances. Florida courts want both parents to have continuing relationships with the child, wherever possible and where it serves the child’s interests, and so the hope is that parents can reach a schedule on their own to provide regular, ongoing time between each parent and the child.

A time sharing plan can be a weekly plan such as one in which the child spends Monday through Thursday with one parent, and Friday through Sunday with another parent, or it could be one scheduled on a more annual basis, with the child spending the summer with one parent and the rest of the year with another parent. Obviously the parents will need to work around the child’s schooling and other scheduling requirements in making a time sharing plan, and ideally the parents will live in close enough geographic proximity as to not make the plan too stressful on the child.

If the parents can reach a schedule through negotiation involving their family law attorneys, this plan can be submitted to a Florida judge for approval, at which point the plan will be legally enforceable. If the parents cannot agree, then the judge will create a time sharing plan based on the “best interests of the child,” which incorporates a number of factors such as the ability of each parent to provide for the child, the willingness of each parent to support ongoing contact with the other parent, and the educational and community needs of the child.

The Importance of Determining Parental Responsibility

Parental responsibility under Florida law dictates how important decisions will be made on behalf of the child, such as those decisions relating to the child’s educational, medical, and religious needs. Courts prefer to give shared parental responsibility among both parents so that they both play a role in making such decisions, but courts can also award sole parental responsibility to one parent.

As with time sharing plans, courts will approve parental responsibility arrangements that the parents voluntarily reach on their own (which often occurs with the assistance of attorneys in negotiating such arrangements), but will create and impose its own arrangement based on the best interests of the child when the parents cannot agree. Courts will generally award shared parental responsibility unless one parent is unable to provide fit guidance in a child’s life, for reasons such as not being present in the child’s life, a history of domestic violence, or drug and alcohol issues. In such cases, sole parental responsibility may be ordered.

Legal Help in Your Florida Child Move Away Matter

No matter where you are in the process of divorce and/or dividing up parental responsibility and time sharing, The Law Offices of Ira M. Marcus, P.A. in Miami can help. Contact our office today to set up a consultation with a trusted and caring family law attorney

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