New Law Creates Presumption of 50/50 Time-Sharing in Florida
In June, Governor DeSantis signed a new bill into law that will have a significant impact on child custody cases in the state going forward. The biggest change is in regards to the presumption of time-sharing. As a result of this change, courts are now directed to presume that an equal time-sharing arrangement, or a 50/50 split, is in a child’s best interests. It is possible, however, to rebut this presumption and parents also retain the right to reach a different agreement.
Rebuttable Presumption of Equal Time-Sharing
In Florida, custody is divided into two main categories known as time-sharing and parental responsibility. The former refers to how much physical time a parent spends with his or her child, while the latter involves the division of responsibility for making decisions about the child’s welfare, education, healthcare, and religion. Before the passage of this law, there was no presumption in favor of a certain type of time-sharing arrangement, although close and continuing contact between a child and both of his or her parents was preferred. As a result of the new change, however, parents who walk into court during divorce or child custody proceedings will do so on an equal footing, with judges automatically presuming that a 50/50 division of parenting time is in a child’s best interests.
Rebutting the Presumption
The equal time-sharing presumption does not mean that all parents will now be forced to abide by equal time-sharing arrangements. Instead, it will be up to the parents to either:
- Come to a mutual agreement that such an arrangement is not in their child’s best interests; or
- Rebut the presumption in court.
The second option will require proof by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) that equal time-sharing is decidedly not in a child’s best interests. A wide range of evidence could be used when making this assertion, including everything from proof of restrictive work schedules, concerns about the distance between the parents’ homes, or evidence of a historic lack of involvement in the life of the child by one parent. If this burden is met then a court can tailor a parenting plan that is more specific to a family’s particular situation. In determining what would be best for a child, courts must evaluate all of the factors that affect the welfare of the child, including:
- The distance between the parents’ homes;
- The parents’ physical and mental health;
- The child’s home, school, and community record;
- Each parent’s ability to provide a consistent routine for the child;
- The nature of the parents’ relationship;
- The child’s developmental stages and needs; and
- The parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent.
If a child is deemed mature enough to express a reasonable preference, a court may even ask for the child’s opinion on the time-sharing arrangement.
Reach Out to Our Experienced Clearwater Child Custody Lawyers
To speak with a Clearwater child custody attorney about how the new presumption of equal time-sharing in Florida could affect your own custody arrangement, please call Cairns Law at 727-683-1472 today.