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Reexamining Shared Parenting in Florida as Family Roles Change


For anyone who is currently in the process of getting divorced or is considering divorce in the New Year, the divorce process is likely to be more complicated if you have minor children from the marriage. According to a recent article in ScienceNordic, public policies in the US and across the Western world handle shared parenting issues quite differently, yet shifting family roles mean that more states and regions should be enacting laws that focus on shared parenting. To be sure, the article contends that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child “mandates that children should be allowed to maintain meaningful relationships with both of their parents.”

How does time-sharing in Florida help to provide shared parenting while also recognizing some of the limitations of a 50-50 shared custody presumption?

Recent History of Shared Parenting in Florida

You may know that Florida lawmakers passed a bill a couple of years ago that had a provision for the presumption of 50-50 shared custody or shared parenting in Florida, but then-Governor Rick Scott vetoed the bill. As such, courts do not begin child custody proceedings with a presumption for 50-50 shared custody or time-sharing. Instead, the court continues to relies on the best interests of the child standard under Florida law (Fla. Stat. § 61.13) in order to make custody and time-sharing determinations for families with minor children.

To be clear, Florida law does not have a presumption for 50-50 shared parenting, but this does not mean that a court will not determine that 50-50 shared parenting is appropriate in any given case. Florida’s current statute emphasizes the important role that both parents play in their child’s upbringing, but it does not presume that 50-50 shared parenting is best in every situation.

Distinctions Between Time-Sharing and 50-50 Presumptions

 The ScienceNordic article refers to equal shared parenting, but what it really gets at is this: it is important for a child to have both parents in his or her life unless there is a clear reason to prevent one of the parents to have a major and continuing role in the child’s life (such as a violent criminal record or a history of domestic violence). In large part, Florida law already underscores the importance of time-sharing and both parents’ duties and obligations toward their children.

It is important to understand the distinctions between states like Florida that make custody and time-sharing decisions based on the best interest of the child standard, and those that have a presumption of 50-50 shared parenting.

In states with a 50-50 presumption, the court begins from the position that equal time is appropriate. The only way the court deviates from this 50-50 presumption is in cases where one of the parents can prove that the other parent should not equally share physical custody. To be clear, that burden of proof is on the parent who does not believe that 50-50 is appropriate. The evidentiary standard is often a heightened one of “clear and convincing evidence,” making it more difficult for that parent to show sufficient proof.

In states like Florida, courts award joint physical custody—discussed as time-sharing under Florida law—but do not begin from a presumption that equally shared physical custody is best. Instead, the court looks at a number of different factors to determine what kind of physical custody scenario is in the child’s best interests.

Contact a Tampa Family Law Attorney

 It is possible that another 50-50 shared parenting bill could come up in Florida again, but in the meantime, courts make custody decisions based on what is in the child’s best interests. And in most cases, spending (nearly) equal time with both parents tends to be in a child’s best interests, according to the article.

If you have questions, a Tampa family law attorney can speak with you. Contact Bubley & Bubley, P.A. today.



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