Time Sharing with the New Florida Parenting Plan
I am often asked how the new “non custody” child custody laws have changed parent visitation in the state of Florida. In essence, the new parenting laws have not resulted in any substantial change. It is mostly a matter of semantics. What child custody attorneys previously referred to as visitation, we now refer to as “time sharing”. The new law requires the implementation of a “Parenting Plan”. Within the “parenting plan” is required that the parents agree to a time sharing schedule. The time sharing schedule is quite specific and designates the time each parent will spend with the child(ren). It will state the time and location of drop off and pick up. In addition, the Parenting Plan includes a holiday schedule, as well as parent and child time sharing in the summer months. These schedules are clearly stated to avoid any potential problems in the future.
As a child custody attorney, I am often asked what is the normal or most common time sharing schedule with this new parenting law. There is no real answer to that question. Every case is different because every couple has a somewhat unique situation. What may work for one couple may not work for another. So what factors need to be considered in formulating a time sharing schedule?
1. The work schedule of both parents: The Court will always give preference to a parent over a third party. When a parent is available to spend time with a child is obviously a concern. A parent who works on Saturdays, is not available for typical weekend time sharing. A parent who works long hours is not available to pick up the child from school or day care. A parent who has to travel out of town is not available to enter into a set schedule. A time sharing plan should be formulated to accommodate a work schedule. It should always be based upon what is best for the child, not what is best for the parent.
2. The location of each parent’s residence and their proximity to each other: The address of one of the parent’s will be used for school registration. If the other parent lives a great distance away it could cause a potential problem. Let’s assume that the parties agree to use the mother’s address (this will be included in the parenting plan) and Mom lives in Weston. The children will attend school in Weston based upon this address. If Dad lives near the beach, it will be difficult to get the kids to school early in the morning if they are spending the night with Dad. Children of high school age need to be in school by 7:30 A.M. If they have an hour’s drive, it requires them to wake up at an extremely early hour and effects their whole day. In this situation it is not in the children’s best interest to spend weekday overnights with their father.
3. The residence of both parents: Although a time sharing schedule will never be based upon which parent has the nicer house, it is important to consider if the residence is equipped to provide the children with a clean and safe environment. Suitable sleeping arrangements should be in place. A child should feel comfortable in both parents’ home.
As you can see, there is no such thing as a typical time sharing arrangement. Each case is different and depends on a number of factors.
For answers from an experienced divorce lawyer about child custody and spousal support, email us or call my office at 954 385 9160. Let us explain how we can help you through the complicated process.