Child Custody and Visitation in Florida: A New Vocabulary

Florida’s Legislature decided in the 2008 Parenting Bill that the terms child custody, custodial parent, non-custodial parent, and visitation no longer adequately described parental rights. The rationale behind this revision is that family courts should be guided more by the principle of co-parenting. The principle of co-parenting is the belief that both parents should be responsible for their children and both parents should share time with their children in a way that both parents are significantly involved in the upbringing of their children.

Florida’s Legislature thought that the terms child custody and visitation did not reflect the principle of co-parenting. Thus, child custody is now referred to as parental responsibility to reflect the fact that both parents share responsibility rather than one parent being named the custodial parent and the other the non-custodial parent. Further, visitation is now referred to as time-sharing, again to reflect the fact that both parents need to be involved and share time together with the child as opposed to a parent visiting a child. Therefore, the 2008 Parenting Bill eliminated the terms child custody and visitation.

The elimination of the terms child custody and visitation came along with several consequences to the procedure of what is now called parental responsibility and time-sharing as well. These new procedures include one cohesive shared parenting plan and time-sharing arrangement instead of the old child custody and visitation that awarded one parent custody and the other parent visitation rights. Also, as long as there are no issues of neglect or other relevant issues to the well-being of a child, there is a presumption that each parent has an equal interest in the upbringing of their child. The new shared parenting plan and time-sharing arrangements are meant to reflect the principle of co-parenting. Further, the new time-sharing arrangements must be much more detailed than the former visitation schedules which were sometimes vague and thus can now be enforced more effectively.

Therefore, when family law issues arise, it is important to choose an experienced lawyer that understands the new child custody and visitation vocabulary and its implications.

Categories: Family Law