Equal Time Sharing is Quickly Becoming the New Standard
For many years the idea that one parent, usually the mother, should be the primary caregiver for minor children following a divorce or separation was the norm. The primary caregiver was typically referred to as having “custody” while the other parent was referred to as noncustodial, having secondary custody. Often the noncustodial parent had very specific visitation rights with little or no overnights with their child. All decisions, major or minor, were made by the custodial parent without the necessity of input from the other parent. Obviously, this makes for a very one-sided developmental plan for a child as well as making the noncustodial parent feel inferior and frustrated at not having an active part in the raising of their child.
In the last ten years, there has been a strong effort both from dads who have felt left out and from child developmental specialists who have proven the need for both parents to be equally involved in the care and nurturing of their children from birth to adult. For example, according to a report in USNews and World Report, September 2019, “children in fatherless or single-parent families represent 63% of teen suicides, 71% of high school dropouts and 90% of homeless and runaway children.” Statistics like these place a strong emphasis on the involvement of both parents in raising their children, whether the parents are living together or not. In fact, parents need never to have married or even lived together to both take an active role in rearing their shared children.
Across the United States, there has been a strong movement to pass Family Law legislation, which is termed “equal time-sharing” or in some states “shared parenting.” The changeover started slowly but is now increasing rapidly. In 2014 there were 26 states using equal time-sharing, and by 2019 that amount had jumped to 34 states with all other states at least considering the shared parenting concept. This is exciting news for parents and professionals looking for ways to ensure a healthy environment for raising children, especially in our troubled society.
But how does equal time-sharing work to ensure the best environment for the care and nurturing of children? Take Florida, for example, a state where equal time-sharing is the law. To begin with, all parents are required to take a parenting class certified by the state to learn parenting skills and how to get along with each other in the area of caring for their children. A parenting plan must be established to denote how various issues will be handled, including the equal division of overnights and where and when these will take place. Issues such as how will the children communicate with each parent, who will care for the child when one or the other parent is unable to do so, where and how will the child be dropped off or picked up, how will holidays and birthdays be divided between the parents, and who pays for life insurance, medical insurance, and extra circular activities. This plan must be approved by a judge. Additionally, all major decision making concerning medical, educational, discipline, and religion must be made by both parents together.
Of course, there will be times when parents have so much trouble putting their own issues aside from that equal time-sharing becomes very difficult. However, the courts insist adults must put their children first, “in the best interest of the child” and will act to see the parenting plan and joint decision making are honored. If you have questions about the concept of equal time-sharing and live in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange of Hillsborough counties in Florida or in New York or Washington, DC Family Law attorney Grant Gisondo offers a free, initial, in-office consultation to answer questions and share how he can help. You can call his office at (561) 530-4568 for an appointment. His office hours are Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and for new clients on Saturday from 8:30 AM to 1:00 PM.