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.