Timesharing- what 50/50 Really Means and the Level of Parental Involvement
For many years the custody of minor children following a divorce or separation of unmarried parents was ordered by appointing one parent as the primary custodial parent and the other as a secondary custodial parent or a parent with visiting rights but not necessarily the right to have their child spend an entire night. As time has gone on and research is done in the area of what is best for a minor child in this difficult situation, it has been shown that children do best when they are cared for and nurtured by both parents on an equal basis. All too often, the primary parent would take almost all the parenting rights and decision making into their own hands, leaving out the other parent almost entirely. In most states, including Florida, this no longer happens. Only in cases where a parent is proven to be unable to parent, is in jail, has been convicted of child abuse or domestic violence, or is too sick physically or mentally to care for a child, will a judge allow for sole custody of a minor child. In the eyes of most Family Courts, a 50-50 arrangement of time spent with each parent and a 50-50 agreement in major decision making is considered the best arrangement for the care and nurturing of minor children. This 50-50 arrangement is termed “parental timesharing.”
In the area of actual time spent with a minor child, each parent is allowed an equal number of days and overnights. In many cases, a week is broken up equally between each parent and a parent having every other weekend and holidays and birthdays every other year. Different combinations of overnights are adjudicated, including every other week, month, or even a given number of months, usually six, for each parent. A lot depends on the age and schooling arrangements for a child as well as the location of the parent (s) following the break-up. Judges will consider different timesharing arrangements, but there must be strong reasons supporting the claim.
The other situation where a 50-50 sharing occurs is in the area of decision making. Small, day to day decisions such as a child’s clothing, meals, toys, friends, and local visits to stores, family, activities can be made by the parent whose turn it is to have the child. All major decisions, however, must be discussed and made by both parents together. These decisions are categorized into four areas, medical, educational, religious, and discipline. So, if a minor child needs to change schools, visit a doctor, attend church, or be disciplined by a certain method, these kinds of decisions must be made and agreed upon by both parents.
A parenting plan will also be required to be drawn up which will determine such issues as how a child will communicate with the other parent when in the care of a parent, who will care for the child if one or the other parent, for a good reason, cannot, how holidays will be shared, where will the pick-up and drop-off of the child take place, and how will permission for trips and vacations be handled.
All of this is ideal, and in many cases not followed by one or the other parent. If disregard for parental timesharing and the parenting plan is frequent, the party in question can be judged in contempt of court and possibly fined, or even jailed when severe. It can be hoped that in most situations, parents will realize the value of sharing the raising of their children, even though they can no longer be together as a couple. Children need both parents in a loving, supporting relationship to become the best they can be in all stages of their lives.