People often confuse the terms of child custody, visitation, and timesharing.  All of these terms mean the same. Florida law no longer uses the terms child custody and visitation. Instead, the terms “parenting plan,” “parental responsibility” and “timesharing” are now used. 

As a top-rated Orlando law firm with expert child custody attorneys, Longwell Lawyers provides exceptional legal counsel for individuals in need of representation for child custody. Established in 1993, the Orlando law firm of Longwell Lawyers understands how to effectively handle any family law matter.

Whether you are facing a divorce, child support matter, child custody matter, modification, paternity action, alimony matter, pre-nuptial matter, or post-nuptial matter, it is important to speak with an Orlando family law attorney who knows how to help you. Contact Longwell Lawyers for a free consultation.

Child Custody / Timesharing

Florida no longer uses the terms “child custody” or “visitation,” instead the terms “timesharing” and “parental responsibility” are used. The terms used in cases involving the custody of children are now “majority timesharing” including, “100% timesharing” and “supervised timesharing” or “equal timesharing.”

Child custody matters are handled in divorce proceedings and paternity actions. A divorce proceeding will cover the distribution of assets and liabilities, child custody, child support, alimony, and/or attorney’s fees, if applicable. A paternity action is when there is a child born to unmarried parents and either parent desires to establish their rights as a parent and establish child support. A paternity action will cover child custody, child support, and/or attorney’s fees, if applicable.

How Is Child Custody Determined in FL?

The goal in cases involving children is to ensure that the best interests of the children are served by creating a parenting plan that establishes a timesharing schedule and that addresses the following:

  • parental responsibility;
  • school designation for the child;
  • when each parent spends time with the child;
  • holiday timesharing with the child;
  • school breaks timesharing with the child;
  • decisions about extracurricular activities and who pays for the activities;
  • decisions about childcare and who pays for the childcare;
  • communication between the parents;
  • communication between the parents and the child;
  • travel out of Florida and out of the United States;
  • who claims the child for tax purposes;
  • co-parenting guidelines;
  • Health insurance for the child and the payment of uncovered expenses; and
  • relocation of the parents with the child.

Florida provides three options for parental responsibility in a Parenting Plan.

The first option is Shared Parental Responsibility, which means that the parents will confer and jointly make all major decisions affecting the welfare of the child. Major decisions include, but are not limited to, decisions about the children 's education, healthcare, and other responsibilities unique to the family. 

The second option is Shared Parental Responsibility with Decision Making Authority, which means the parents will attempt to confer and agree on major decisions affecting the welfare of the child. If the parents are unable to agree, one parent make be designated to make the decision. 

The third option is Sole Parental Responsibility, which means only one parent will be designated to make all major decisions affecting the welfare of the child. Should Sole Parental Responsibility be ordered, the Court must find that Shared Parental Responsibility would be detrimental to the child.

Making a Parenting Plan

The timesharing schedule parents have with the child should be as detailed as possible in the Parenting Plan, as this will be the guideline for the parents to follow until the child reaches the age of 18. The timesharing schedule should include starting and ending days and times, as well as details regarding how the exchange of the child will occur. Many Parenting Plans, including any forms found on the internet, lack many details that should be included in order for the parents to harmoniously co-parent, which is always in the best interest of the child.

When creating a Parenting Plan, the best interests of the child must be considered. The Courts will rely on the factors in the Florida Statute 61.13(3). It is a good idea for both parents to become familiar with these factors when going through any legal matter involving child custody. The factors listed are as follows:

  1. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
  2. The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
  3. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.
  4. The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
  5. 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. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child.
  6. The moral fitness of the parents.
  7. The mental and physical health of the parents.
  8. The home, school, and community record of the child.
  9. The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
  10. The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent 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.
  11. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
  12. The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.
  13. Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought. If the court accepts evidence of prior or pending actions regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, the court must specifically acknowledge in writing that such evidence was considered when evaluating the best interests of the child.
  14. Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
  15. The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties.
  16. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
  17. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
  18. The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.
  19. The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.
  20. Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.

In addition, most Courts have general guidelines of dos and don’ts for parents to follow during the pendency of a case. These guidelines are known as Administrative Orders or Standing Temporary Orders. These guidelines are to help the parents co-parent in a healthy, efficient, and effective manner while the case is pending. The Courts take these orders seriously, and should either parent not comply with these orders, they may be found in contempt of Court.

The number of overnights each parent has with the child is one of the main factors in calculating child support. An overnight is considered as where the child sleeps at night. A parent’s timesharing that ends without an overnight stay (such as going out to dinner) is not considered an overnight.

For any type of family law matter in Orlando and all of Central Florida, including Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Brevard, Lake, Sumter, Polk, and Volusia Counties, the attorneys at Longwell Lawyers know how to help you.  We have attorneys and staff available who are fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, Greek and English.  Please contact Longwell Lawyers for a free consultation at 407-426-5757.

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