Meaning of Continuity of a Stable, Satisfactory Environment Regarding Timesharing
Parental timesharing for minor children has, in most states, including Florida, replaced the practice of custody for minor children where there is a primary or residential parent and a secondary or nonresidential parent. Over the years of experience and research, it has been proven that children develop to their best potential when they are cared for and nurtured by both parents. Unfortunately, in perhaps the majority of families in the US, both parents are not together whether in marriage or a living arrangement. The practice of primary and secondary custody simply does not allow a child equal access to and influence of each parent. Parental timesharing works much better for the healthy development of children.
That being said, it is interesting to look at how Family Court sets up the parameters of parental timesharing. There are 20 factors found in Florida Statute 61:13, which a judge will consider when making his or her determination of the exact structure of a couple’s parental timesharing arrangement. Ideally, the time spent with each parent, including overnights, will be equal, but the outcome of each factor can make a difference.
One of the factors in Florida Statute 61.13, factor 61.13(3)(d), reads, “The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.” What do the words stable, satisfactory, environment, and continuity mean in reference to a parental timesharing arrangement?
Satisfactory: if a child has been living in a home where he or she has been getting their needs met such as love and attention from both parents, safe dwelling, enough healthy food, proper supervision, medical and dental needs met, regular attendance at school for school-age children, activities outside of TV and ipads, peer social interactions, and reasonable discipline then a satisfactory life for a child was taking place.
Stable: Were both parents involved with the care and nurturing of their children on a regular basis, or did one parent perhaps travel a lot or spend the majority of his or her nonworking hours away from the home? How often has the family moved from one home to another, even in the same residential area and particularly when the move caused the child to need to change schools? Have other adults, not the parents, been primarily responsible for the child’s care? Have other adults been living in the home either regularly or off and on?
Environment: The environment of the child does not mean the physical structure where the child lives or the quality of the child’s bedroom. Environment takes into consideration the overall living experience of the child, including how satisfactory and stable the home life of the child has been and for how long it has been the way it is at present. Sometimes the environment will have changed for better or for worse, and the factors causing this change will be examined.
Continuity: This refers to the hope that the courts can provide a timesharing plan that will, in the case of a proven satisfactory, stable environment, be as rich as possible for the continued care and nurturing of the minor child by both parents. When the environment has been found lacking, a judge will set up a parenting plan best suited to the on-going needs of the minor child.
Setting up the parental timesharing plan is one of the most important decisions a judge must make. Hopefully, parents can work out a reasonable timesharing agreement during mediation, but a judge will still have to approve the marital agreement before the final judgment. Florida Family Courts work hard to live up to their motto “in the best interest of the child and so make the final parental timesharing arrangement a top priority.