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Florida Child Custody Laws: What Divorced Parents Should Know About Time-Sharing

If you are in the process of ending your marriage, you’ll likely need reputable divorce attorney for help, particularly if you have children involved. Legislation pertaining to custody agreements varies widely depending on where you are in the country. In Florida, there have been several recent changes made to parental responsibility — not the least of which is present in the very language that’s used in these kinds of cases.

First, the term ‘child custody’ no longer exists in Florida.

In 2008, the state of Florida made the decision to eliminate certain words from the laws pertaining to parental agreements. Terms like ‘custody,’ ‘custodial,’ ‘non-custodial parent,’ ‘primary resident/residential parent,’ and ‘visitation’ were eliminated from legislation and were replaced with terms like ‘shared/sole parental responsibility,’ and ‘majority/equal time-sharing.’ Because legislators thought the word ‘custody’ had a possessive connotation, they felt that responsibility and the concept of time-sharing were more accurate and less threatening.

In approximately  29% of custody cases nationwide, decisions are made without any third-party involvement, meaning that the parents are able to come up with an agreement on their own. But if you do need divorce help when it comes to your children, it’s likely you’ll go to family court.

When making a decision about parental responsibility, Florida courts have two choices.

The first, which is the default in Florida, is shared parental responsibility. This involves both parents sharing childcare duties and making decisions about their children together. Florida courts want both parents to be involved in their children’s lives unless it’s determined that this would not be in the best interests of the children.

In rare cases, sole parental responsibility may be awarded. Typically, this would happen in cases in which mental illness, drug and alcohol use, physical/emotional/sexual abuse, or unstable home environments are involved. If you feel that your child might be truly at risk with a shared responsibility situation, your West Palm Beach divorce lawyers can help you gather the evidence you’ll need to argue your case in court.

In general, however, it’s best when both parents are able to reach an agreement on responsibility together.

That may not always be possible. In cases like these, a judge will weigh contributing factors and make a decision for you. And unless one parent has significant problems like the ones mentioned above, a judge will likely decide on equal time-sharing. If you simply cannot agree to a parenting plan that’s in the best interests of your child, you’ll need the help of an attorney when you appear before a judge.

Every case is different, but no matter what, you shouldn’t go it alone. To find out more about parental responsibility and divorce in Florida, contact the Affordable Divorce Center today.

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