UPDATE: GOVERNOR SCOTT VETOES SENATE BILL SB 718. READ MORE: HERE
50/50 Child Custody Could Be Florida’s Norm
Most of the talk surrounding Florida’s Senate Bill SB 718 has been its radical overall of Florida’s alimony laws, but there are also significant, less publicized, changes to Florida’s child time-sharing laws (a/k/a child custody laws). Currently there is no presumption for or against time-sharing for either parent. The current agnostic time-sharing law affords Florida family law judges flexibility to fashion time-sharing arrangements that are in the best interests of the child(ren) while fostering a relationship with both parents.
The Legislature is taking away a large portion of Florida family law judges’ discretion in family law cases by declaring that it is in the best interest of children to have 50/50 time-sharing with both parents unless certain narrow exceptions apply. The exceptions include:
1) A parent who is incarcerated.
2) A parent who lives too far away to make 50/50 time-sharing practical.
3) An injunction for protection against domestic violence has been entered.
4) There is a history of domestic violence in the home.
5) The safety, well-being, and physical, mental, and emotional health of the child would be endangered by equal time-sharing.
If the above exceptions do not apply, then the parent seeking to deviate from 50/50 time-sharing must show by “clear and convincing evidence of extenuating circumstances” to justify deviation from 50/50 time-sharing. If a parent demonstrates by clear and convincing evidence that 50/50 time-sharing is appropriate, the court must make written findings justifying deviating from 50/50 time-sharing.
The Economics of 50/50 Child Custody
In my opinion, the proposed default 50/50 time-sharing standard will create more intense litigation and lead to more time-sharing orders that are not in the best interest of the child(ren). If Senate Bill SB 718 is signed by Governor Scott, economics will increasingly drive child custody litigation.
Child support is in part calculated based on the number of overnights each parent spends with the parties’ child(ren). Even if one parent has done the majority of the parenting prior to or during the separation of the parties, and the potential non-majority time-sharing parent is not naturally inclined to assume time-sharing responsibility, or has a demanding time-consuming career, the potential non-majority time-sharing parent seeking to reduce child support will point to the Legislature’s 50/50 time-sharing pronouncement when negotiating or litigating child support. Why? In my experience as a divorce attorney, many parents seek to minimize their child support obligation. It makes economic sense for the post separation non-majority time-sharing parent to ask for 50/50 time-sharing as a means to reduce child support, even if they may not be naturally inclined to assume 50/50 time-sharing. Senate Bill 718 will make that easier. The question is: will child(ren) benefit?
Current Time-Sharing Law
If you are interested in Florida’s current time-sharing law, click on the following link to an article discussing the current law.
Contact The Taylor Law Office