Since 2011, Florida has shifted its focus in family law from mother’s rights vs father’s rights to the rights of the child—and a child has the right to both a mother and a father. The court also recognizes that parents do not visit with their child; they share their time with their child. As a result, the term child custody has been replaced with parental responsibility and visitation has also been removed from the legal vocabulary and replaced with a more accurate term: time sharing. These terms apply to divorcing parents as well as those who are not married and are ending their relationship.

The court must approve the submitted parenting plan or will enter its own parenting plan if the parents cannot come to an amicable agreement. Both parents should be able to “share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing.” (Fla. Stat. §61.13(2)(c)) and a court entered parenting plan will aim to ensure the children have “regular and ongoing contact” with both of their parents.

A parenting plan in Florida must include:

  • How each parent will be able to participate in raising their child(ren).
  • A time-sharing (visitation) schedule.
  • Designations for who oversees medical care, decisions regarding education, and other activities or child rearing concerns.
  • How the parents will continue communication with their child.

Time Sharing

“I don’t babysit my kids”. Parents do not babysit their children and the courts have recognized they don’t “visit” them either; what they actually do is spend time with their child. As a result, the terms and definitions of family law have changed with the times as society realizes the system in place disenfranchises certain parents.

A child’s time is shared as equally as possible so that the child can benefit from having two parents with minimal disruptions to their daily life. Where both parents live, the age of the child, location of the school, and the profession of each parent can influence how time is shared.

The goal of time sharing is to allow the child to be with each parent as much as possible. So, if dad works every other weekends or mom works 12 hour shifts, the time sharing plan is adjusted to accommodate these needs so a parent is not punished for their career choice or schedule.

Like with parental responsibility, time sharing encourages parents to work together. If an emergency comes up or work schedule is changed, parents should communicate to each other their need for a change in the schedule (whether temporary or permanently) and do what they can to assist each other to maintain the balance of time shared with their child.

Parental Responsibility

To eliminate the battle between parents over who was labeled “primary” versus “secondary” and to ensure the responsibility of raising a child was not more weighted on one side over the other, the courts traded the terms child custody, shared custody, and sole custody for parental responsibility.

Parental responsibility defines which parent makes the decision about important issues like doctor or dental visits, school choice, religion, extracurricular activities, and medications or other medical decisions. In the majority of cases, parental responsibility is shared between mom and dad. For day-to-day care and decision making, each party holds the responsibility to care for the child while the child is with them.

Typically, the parents are left to discuss amongst themselves how to raise their children together, but from two different homes. This means that the parents will have to share the child’s schedule of doctor appointments, medications to take, or what is happening at school. Also, it allows each parent to make decisions regarding their children while the children are with them and reduces the court’s presence in the home.

Dissolution of Marriage With Children

During a divorce, if the parents are unable to come to a reasonable agreement of shared parental responsibility and time sharing schedule, then the courts will determine what will be in the best interest for the child. The Myrthil’s Law, P.A. believes that what is in the best interest for the child is the route best taken, especially since children fare better when they have both parents working together, even if separately, to raise them.

Non-Marital Ending of Relationship With Children

Time sharing and parental responsibility for an unmarried couple who are ending their relationship can be more complicated to settle since there is not a legal process required for their separation in which matters pertaining to their children are handled. It is important for unmarried parents, to understand their rights as a parent and the legal steps they should take to ensure their fair distribution of time sharing and parental responsibility with their child.

Exceptions

Because we do not live in a perfect world, this model does not work for some families, such as those who are going through a high conflict divorce or who are separating from an abusive partner. In cases like those, a more detailed parenting plan may be developed, or parental responsibility may be granted to a single parent with limited or restricted time sharing rights.

Myrthil Law, P.A. aims to maintain the family structure, supporting equal time with the child for both parents. Even though the structure of your family is changing—one value will still hold true: your children come first. Divorce isn’t always amicable; sometimes feelings can run high, and during those times, Luby Myrthil, P.A. will be at your side, fighting for your rights as a parent. 

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