As the law stands today, equal time sharing is not presumed to be in the best interests of the children in all situations. I will however state that it is becoming the norm, rather than the exception. It is believed that frequent contact with both parents will result in better adjusted child. Of course, every case is different and as such, it is difficult to have a set rule for all cases. Parent’s work schedules, travel schedules and locations should be considered. A parent who must leave for work prior to a minor child having to wake up for school, could present a problem. A parent who does not have a set schedule such as pilots or firefighters also require some planning. Parents who choose to live a distance apart can also complicate the situation. Of course, the other factor which is always considered is child support and how equal time sharing affects the monthly amount to be paid.
Child Support in Florida is based upon several factors, one of which is the number of overnights a minor child spends with each parent. An equal time-sharing schedule will result in a reduced amount of support, since it is presumed that each parent will have significant “out of pocket” expenses if each has an equal amount of time with the child.
This concept of equal time sharing has existed for several years now. I have recently met with prospective clients who seem to share the same issue. A parent has equal time sharing pursuant to their Parenting Plan, but in reality, the parent is not actually exercising his/her 50%. The result is that the parent who is not following the schedule is receiving a financial benefit by a reduced child support payment, but is not sharing in the responsibility of caring for the child. Is there a way to correct this situation, even though the parties had previously reached an Agreement? The answer is yes and a correction to this situation can be accomplished by a Petition for Modification. The moving party (the parent who is in fact receiving less support than he/she should) must allege that since the parties entered into their Parenting Plan there has been a substantial change of circumstance, that was not anticipated at the time the Parenting Plan was agreed to.
To be successful it is essential that a calendar be kept, listing the actual overnights being exercised by each parent. Just alleging that mom or dad doesn’t have the children 50% of the time, without some additional proof, will probably not be a strong or successful argument if it were to go before a judge. If the Petition is successful, a new time-sharing schedule would be determined and child support would be recalculated based upon the actual number of overnights each party is exercising.