50/50 Time-Sharing in Florida Child Custody Cases

 

50-50 Time-Sharing in Florida

50-50 Time-Sharing in Florida

This blog receives a high volume of traffic from people searching “50/50 time-sharing” in Florida due to a piece I wrote  about a bill that passed the Florida Legislature creating a presumption of 50/50 time-sharing for both parents. The 50/50 time-sharing bill was vetoed by Governor Scott.

Currently, Florida’s statutes do not reference a presumption for 50/50 a/k/a “equal time-sharing” with children; instead, Florida law favors frequent time-sharing with both parents. Florida Statute 61.13 states in relevant part:

“It is the public policy of this state that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of child rearing. There is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child or for or against any specific time-sharing schedule when creating or modifying the parenting plan of the child.”

Factors a Judge Consider When Ruling on 50/50 Time-Sharing

While the above statute does not reference 50/50 time-sharing, in certain contexts, equal time-sharing can be awarded. The current statutory scheme gives Florida family law judges broad discretion in awarding time-sharing. If a parent asks a Florida family law judge to award equal time-sharing, the judge will make a decision based on the best interests of the child(ren): Here are some of the factors, applying Florida Statute 61.13, a judge will consider:

  1. The capacity and disposition of a parent to encourage a close parent-child relationship with other parent
  2.  The capacity of a parent to act upon the needs of the child(ren).
  3. The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan.
  4. The moral fitness of the parents
  5. The mental and physical health of the parents.
  6. The home, school, and community record of the child.
  7. The demonstrated capacity to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.

With so many factors to consider, an experienced family law attorney can have a large impact on whether or not a parent will receive equal time-sharing (for a complete unedited list of factors, please click on the following link to Florida Statute 61.13). Since a judge may only consider the evidence in front of him or her, an attorney can help you organize and present the evidence you will need to successfully present your case. If you are not prepared, your request for equal time-sharing is more likely to be denied.

Preparing for a 50/50 Time-Sharing Request

Here are some tips when preparing for an equal time-sharing request:

1)      Move close to your child(ren)’s current school and reasonably close to the other parent. If you live in your child(ren)’s community, the logistically issues associated with 50.50 time-sharing will be greatly reduced.

2)      Stay in contact and involved in your child(ren)’s school, medical care, and extra-curricular activities.

3)      Avoid making negative comments about the other parent in the presence of the child(ren).

In Jacksonville, Florida, some family law judges, will not automatically approve a 50/50 time-sharing arrangement, even in the context of an uncontested divorce, without first inquiring into the factors listed above. Judges want to ensure that an equal time-sharing arrangement is in the best interests of the child(ren) and not being requested by a parent simply to reduce a child support obligation. A Judge wants to know that both parents are committed to a healthy 50/50 time-sharing parenting plan. The last thing a judge wants to do is award 50/50 time-sharing and end up with one parent shifting the child care burden to other parent without the obligation a higher level of support.

Contact The Taylor Law Office

If you have questions about how to best approach a 50/50 time-sharing request, please contact us through this website, via e-mail at ctaylor@thetaylorlawofficefl.com, or call 904-339-5298.

 

 

 

Jurisdiction and Venue Issues in Florida Divorce 

Duval County Courthouse

Duval County Courthouse

Questions regarding jurisdiction and venue are often the first to arise in divorce, child custody, or child support proceedings. The terms jurisdiction and venue each have distinct meanings and ramifications in family law matters and may be confusing to someone who has to deal with them.

Jurisdiction

Generally, the term jurisdiction refers to the legal power or authority for a particular branch of a court system to hear and adjudicate a claim. In Florida, courts categorized as judicial circuit courts have jurisdiction over contested dissolution of marriage proceedings (commonly known as divorce) as well as time-sharing (commonly known as child custody) and child support proceedings. Florida has a total of sixty-seven counties that are covered by twenty “sections” of these judicial circuit courts. For example, the Fourth Judicial Circuit Court covers the counties of Duval, Clay, and Nassau. Each circuit court will have a location at the courthouse in each of its respective counties.

For a Florida circuit court to have jurisdiction over dissolution of marriage proceedings, at least one of the parties to the marriage must have resided or lived in Florida for at least six months before filing for a dissolution of marriage. This residency requirement can be proven by a sworn affidavit of a third party.

While child custody and support jurisdiction determinations can become very complicated, the Florida circuit courts generally will have jurisdiction over these matters if Florida is the “home state” of the child, which means the state in which the child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a child-custody proceeding. In the case of a child less than six months of age, the home state is the state in which the child lived from birth with any of the persons mentioned (parent, person acting as parent, etc.). A period of temporary absence of any of the mentioned persons is part of the time period.

Venue in Florida Divorce & Family Law Cases

Once Florida judicial circuit courts have jurisdiction, the term venue then comes into play. Venue refers to which geographical court location is appropriate for hearing proceedings and, in the State of Florida, essentially what county’s courthouse should a case be filed and heard in.

In a contested dissolution of marriage action, the proper venue for filing a petition for dissolution would be in the circuit court in the last county where both the husband and wife lived together with the common intent to be married. This means that if both spouses lived together in Duval County as a married couple and thereafter separated and one spouse moved from Duval County to any other county in Florida, the dissolution of marriage petition would have to be filed with the Clerk of Court for the Fourth Judicial Circuit Court in Duval County.

Another matter that must be considered when determining the proper venue is whether a minor child is involved and custody or child support payments will be an issue. If the action for custody or support is coupled with the action for dissolution of marriage, then the venue will be according to the rule discussed above. However, if the action for custody or support is separate and unconnected to an action for dissolution of marriage, then the venue will be in the county where the petitioner or the parties’ minor child is physically present and refused support by the prospective supporting spouse.

However, venue may also be contested and changed under appropriate circumstances, generally if it can be shown that a party cannot receive a fair trial in the county where the proceedings begin. A motion for change of venue must be filed within ten days after the action for dissolution, child support, or custody is at issue, unless the party requesting the change can show good cause for requesting the change after the ten day time frame outlined by the Florida Statutes.

Florida law also provides that if the proper venue is a hardship on the parties because both parties moved after separation and now live in different counties, either party can ask for a change of venue to an appropriate judicial circuit court that has jurisdiction. This allows the parties to mutually agree to a different venue (county) if both parties believe it is in their best interest to be in a different venue. However, if the court determines that venue is not in the interest of one or both parties after a change of venue, the court will change the venue back to the original venue for the fairness and convenience of the parties. Finally, Florida law also makes venue issues less complicated by allowing testimony of witnesses from the changed venue to be taken by alternative methods, such as telephone or video conference.

Contact Attorney Chris Taylor

If you have questions about family law or divorce in Jacksonville, Florida, please contact us at 904-339-5298 or through this website. Your first consultation is free.