The concept of time-sharing has changed greatly over the past 20 years. The once common, every other weekend time-sharing arrangement is now very rarely ordered by Florida courts. It is the public policy of the State of Florida that each child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents.
Many people believe that there’s a 50-50 presumption for time-sharing in the State of Florida. Although most judges start with the presumption that parents have equal time-sharing rights, there is in fact no legal presumption for any specific time-sharing plan under the law. The main factor for determining a time-sharing schedule is the best interest of the particular child, and the dynamics of a particular family.
Courts are required to consider a list of 20 specific statutory factors when determining a parenting plan and time-sharing. Great care must be used in focusing on the actual statutory requirements when analyzing any case involving time-sharing. Your attorney must present relevant evidence to the court on each factor to allow the court to weigh and consider the facts and order a time-sharing plan that is best suited for the child and family.
Sometimes experts are hired to give opinions on behalf of one parent or the other, or at the request of the court. A Guardian Ad Litem is an individual appointed by the court to represent the best interests of a child during a divorce proceeding. The Guardian often talks to the child, parents and related witnesses and makes a report to the court as to what the Guardian thinks would be the best time-sharing arrangement and parenting plan.
In some cases, a parenting plan recommendation can be made by a court appointed expert. This can happen at the request of a either parent, or by the court’s own initiative. This expert will conduct interviews and do extensive psychological testing before submitting a report and recommendation to the court. There is usually considerable cost involved with the appointment of an expert psychologist to create and present a parenting plan and timesharing recommendation to the court.
In addition to a court appointed psychologist, either party may retain their own expert to make and present a recommendation to the court.
Litigation involving time-sharing is costly and emotionally draining. Great care should be taken before litigating time-sharing issues as courts usually enter Orders that grant both parents significant time-sharing. The decision to engage in time-sharing litigation is sometimes unavoidable if one parent is truly a threat to the child, is completely unreasonable and determined to alienate the child from the other parent.
Judges have a wide discretion in this area, and their decisions are very difficult, if not impossible to overturn.
Time-sharing is often litigated because of its close relation to and effect on the amount of child support ordered by the court. One of the primary factors in determining child support is the number of actual overnights that a child spends with each parent. In cases where there is a large disparity of income the number of overnights can make a huge difference in the amount of child support paid. Although the best interest of the child should always be the primary consideration in determining a time-sharing schedule, the reality of being able to financially support a child, or the desire to avoid paying child support, often drives litigation over time-sharing issues.
Surprisingly, in cases where the parties’ incomes are fairly similar slight variations in time-sharing may have a very small impact on child support. Quite often, when some parents see how little not having a 50-50 time-sharing arrangement impacts their child support payment, they are able to agree on a parenting plan that truly is consistent with the best interest of the child and family.
Children’s issues present significant financial and emotional challenges. Proper guidance and evaluation of your child’s and family’s situation could alleviate most of these challenges and assist the parents in reaching an agreement on a parenting plan which incorporates a time-sharing schedule that is best suited for their child and family. If agreement is reached by the parents, that parenting plan is filed with the court. The court has the authority to enforce the agreement by the parties if there is any violation on the part of either parent.