Family law in Florida is rapidly changing. With the emergence of new issues regarding timesharing between the Mother and Father, the Senate is amending statutes with the presumption of equal timesharing. This is an extremely important amendment because the legislature now states the presumption of both parties to have equal timesharing is more appropriate. Senate bill 250, which goes into effect October 1, 2016, makes significant changes to the factors in Chapter 61.13.
Under prior Florida law, statutory factors regarding the best interest of the child determined the timesharing and parental responsibility between the parties. The factors were listed in alphabetical order and were used by courts to establish a parenting plan and the parental responsibility of each party concerning the child. However, with the recent amendment, these factors are no longer listed alphabetically, but rather are included in text that should be highlighted throughout the case. Both major changes in the addition of sentences, and minor changes to already existing factors, has allowed the legislature to highlight the important aspects in determining the appropriate timesharing between the parents.
A major change in the factors is the addition of sentences such as:
“Approximately equal time-sharing with a minor child by both parents is presumed to be in the best interest of the child. In determining whether the presumption is overcome, the court shall evaluate the evidence based on all of the factors affecting the welfare and interests of the particular minor child and the circumstances of that family, including:”
The addition of this paragraph shows the presumption that both parents have a right to equal timesharing, with the content provided in the rest of the amendment to be used as a forum to support any argument. This is a drastic change in the new bill because the presumption to NOT have equal timesharing must be overcome through the list of numerical factors.
Additional factors were also introduced in the Senate bill to have the Court gather more evidence from the parties. Sentences that were added to help determine relevant evidence for the Court to consider are:
20. The amount of time-sharing requested by each parent.
21. The frequency that a parent would likely leave the child in the care of a nonrelative on evenings and weekends when the other parent would be available and willing to provide care.
22. Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.
These two factors were added to show issues that have arisen from the original legislation until now. By having the factors include the amount of time a non-parent cares for the child, this allows for a Court to take into consideration that the presumption of timesharing should be equal, but the ability of both parents to spend time with the child is an important element in allowing the equal timesharing.
The legislature also added language to show the Court must make written findings of fact against equal timesharing if a parenting plan is ordered that does not provide for equal timesharing. This concerns how a Court views the evidence, and how that evidence is such that is would be detrimental to the child to have equal timesharing with both parents. The language added includes:
(b) A court order must be supported by written findings of fact if the order establishes an initial permanent time-sharing schedule that does not provide for approximately equal time-sharing.
(c) A determination of parental responsibility, a parenting plan, or a time-sharing schedule may not be modified without a determination that such modification is in the best interest of the child and upon a showing of a substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances.
Through the added language, the legislature is presuming that both parents are willing and able to meet the needs of the child equally. However, if a Court finds that through the list of factors that one of the parents is not able to meet the needs of the child, then a written finding of fact must be ordered to depart from the presumption of equal timesharing.
Senate bill 250 drastically changes the timesharing in Florida family law. Through this amendment, attorneys are going to have to focus on the specific factors and present very detailed arguments for their client. At Taracks & Associates we advocate for your rights and help our clients and their children through this stressful time. Contact our firm at (813) 281-2897 to schedule a free consultation.