The phrase custody is often used when discussing which parent has the larger amount of time spent with their child after a divorce. Florida previously used the term to describe the child’s primary physical residence, or to describe the primary residential responsibility. The terms timesharing and parenting plan are now used instead. Timesharing is a child’s contact schedule with each parent. The parenting plan addresses the timesharing of the child along with other parenting matters, including decision-making authority.
Although joint custody is not a phrase recognized by Florida law, it is often used to describe a 50/50 timesharing schedule. This is when both parents have an equal number of overnights with the child. This schedule can be achieved in many different ways—the right schedule for your family depends on the children’s ages, parents’ work schedules, availability to transport children to activities and various other factors. Some parents prefer week-on/week-off timesharing plans, as it is consistent and easy for the kids and parents to maintain:
The 2-2-3 timesharing schedule allows for more contact with each parent and alternates weekend timesharing to ensure that each parent has equal weekend time.
Many people have the mistaken belief that fathers are only entitled to every other weekend and one dinner per week. While this schedule occurs frequently, it is not considered ‘standard’, nor is it a schedule that the Court prefers. This schedule can be used when one parent is more accessible for the children during the week, thereby allowing the parent with the weekday availability more time with the children while also ensuring the other parent has significant time with the children. The schedule can be structured such that the weekends begin Friday and end either Sunday night or Monday morning. Time spent with the children for dinner can also be set up as an overnight visit when appropriate.
In an extreme situation when a parent presents a danger to their children, various safeguards can be issued to protect the child. However, the Court starts with the belief that contact between a child and both parents is important for the child. If a parent is a threat to the child, due to uncontrollable substance abuse, past efforts to abduct the child (parental kidnapping), anger management issues, or otherwise, then the Court is likely to consider protecting the child with supervised visitation or supervised contact. This can be done through Family Ties, a Court-sponsored program with which The Windle Family Law Firm has been involved and helped to improve. The program includes a professional supervisor or a family member acting as the supervisor. When the aforementioned measures are not sufficient, the Court may have to resort to suspending visitation, or awarding one parent sole custody. Sole custody and termination of parental rights cases are very rare and are only awarded by the Court in the most extreme cases. The Windle Family Law Firm is available for to speak with you if your child is at risk for abuse or harm.
Some cases involving custody or timesharing issues can be very challenging. Oftentimes parents do not see eye-to-eye, or worse, one parent will make false allegations about the other to try to gain an advantage in Court. The Windle Family Law Firm has a great deal of experience in dealing with challenging custody cases. A Guardian Ad Litem (GAL)—a Latin phrase meaning “next friend to the child”—is one resource we can use for the complex and sensitive issues that will arise. The GAL is appointed by the Court and is usually an attorney. The GAL investigates the custody and parenting dispute and makes a recommendation to the Court about what is in the best interest of the child.
Fathers and mothers have equal rights to their children in Florida. Fathers should know that they are not restricted to limited contact with their children. Furthermore, the mother is not automatically deemed to be the custodial parent, or the parent with primary rights to the child or children. When it is in the child’s best interest for the father to have custody, equal timesharing, or significant time with the child or children, then the father should be afforded those rights to the child. However, fathers need to be cognizant of Department of Revenue proceedings that can require a father to pay support without awarding the father any basic rights to the child.
Florida law does not afford grandparents rights to visitation or custody of their grandkids, except in rare cases. For a grandparent to obtain rights to their grandchildren in Florida, the parents must (1) be found to be unfit or (2) agree to give the grandparents the rights to the children. Grandparents who have obtained rights in another state may be entitled to use the order in Florida. This requires a complex legal proceeding with which The Windle Family Law Firm has experience handling
How Adultery or an Affair Affects Custody
Florida is a no fault divorce state, meaning that a bad act is not required for a divorce to be granted. Furthermore, in general Florida does not afford a spouse additional relief because of a bad act; therefore, adultery usually has little if any bearing on custody determinations. The Windle Family Law Firm has experience handling cases where infidelity put the children at risk by way of exposure to the person with whom the spouse became involved. While the general rule is that adultery does not affect custody, The Windle Family Law Firm tailors our legal strategy to the unique facets of each case.