In Florida, the term "child custody" has been replaced with a more politically correct term, "time-sharing." In most cases, there are two issues parents should be concerned with when they split up and have to decide what will happen with the kids. The first is timesharing, which is when and where the children will spend time with each parent. The other issue is "parental responsibility", which governs who has a say in major issues in the child's life (medical, educational, etc.) Both these issues will be governed by a document called a "Parenting Plan." The parenting plan will also govern issues like child support, the issuance of a passport for the child, and where the child will go to school.
Timesharing is the most complicated issue in most cases. "Timesharing" is the schedule that determines when and where the kids will be with one parent or another. If one parent has more time than the other, he or she is considered to have "majority timesharing." If the parties have the same amount of time, they have "equal timesharing."
The court will base the timesharing schedule upon the factors contained in Florida Statute 61.13. Those facotrs require the court to make a determination as to what is in the "best interests of the child" and evaluate the circumstances around both parents lives. For example, what are the parents work schedules? Will third parties have to assist with child care? What are the living arrangements in both households? Upon review of all factors the court will determine the timesharing schedule, which the parties will be bound by.
"Parental responsibility" is simply who has decision making authority for major decisions for the children. In most cases (upwards of 95%) the parents have SHARED parental responsibility, meaning they both have a say in major decisions for the kids. In some cases, where it would be detrimental to the best interests of the child for the parents to have shared responsibility, the Court may order SOLE parental responsibility to one parent. This is typically reserved for cases where one parent has a serious drug problem or criminal record. A third option is for shared parental responsibility with one parent having decision making authority over one issue, like education or medical.
It is also important to note that the number of overnight visits each parent has via the timesharing shcedule will be used in calculating child support. It is a common myth that if the parents have equal timesharing there is no child support owed. This is simply not true. In all cases, the Court must determine child support based on Florida's Child Support Guidelines. Those guidelines consider things like income, child care expenses, health insurance expenses, and the number of overnights each parent has.
What Should You Do Next?
If you have a child custody issue, visit our full family law website at www.TampaFamilyLawLawyer.com for more information. You may also contact us at 813-281-2897 for a free, confidential consultation with an attorney today.