When is 50/50 Equal Timesharing Proper and When Is it not Proper?
As each state has its own laws regarding the care and nurturing of minor children following a separation or divorce of their biological or adoptive parents, this blog will focus on the state of Florida. For many years Florida, as in most states, awarded the custody of minor children to one or the other parent. Children lived with the parent having primary custody and the parent given secondary custody would receive visitation rights which may or may not have included overnights with their child. Decision making usually rested with the parent holding primary custody which often left out the other parent who might then feel not an actual part of their child’s life. Children sometimes also perceived that the “other parent” was not as caring as he or she was rarely around and had little input.
Now, except in such instances as drug use, incarceration, child abuse or domestic violence convictions, or extreme physical or mental conditions making the ability to care for minor children impossible, the word custody is not used. Instead, Florida Family Law goes by the tenant of “what is in the best interest of the child” which means both parents are to be equally involved, as much as possible, for the care and nurturing of minor children until the child reaches the age of l8 or has special needs requiring adult care beyond that age. Ideally, this equal parental timesharing, as it is termed, is divided 50/50. But of course, we live in a world where “ideally” an option is not always and so there are times when 50/50 or equal timesharing is not possible and adjustments will be made by the court. By Florida law, judges do not have to automatically grant 50/50 equal timesharing.
Looking first at when equal timesharing will work, it can be seen to work when both parents are willing to work together in what is hoped will be an amicable relationship to care and nurture their children, even though the parents are no longer together. Parents who are both in good health, have homes suitable for young children to spend time and overnights in, are not known to have a “wild” lifestyle, have already proven in the past their care for and interest in their minor children and appear to be willing to take on equal responsibility will be the ones a judge will grant 50/50 timesharing. Parents will draw up a parenting plan determining how the timesharing will work which will include such issues as how and where the overnights will take place, what copays will be necessary, life insurance, medical insurance, and the assurance all major decision making for education, medical, discipline, and religion will be jointly shared. Even issues such as who will care for the children if one or the other can’t, vacation times, which has the children for which holidays, and how they will handle important events such as sports games, school events, and birthdays are included in the parenting plan.
While a 50/50 arrangement is ideal, there are many times parents are so hostile toward each other, uninterested in being involved with their children, or perhaps need to work hours unsuited to caring for minor children, especially very young ones, that a judge will create a timesharing arrangement best suited for the minor children involved. Under Florida Family Law found in Florida Statute 61:13 there are 20 guidelines a judge will consider as well as extenuating circumstances before he or she will make a final determination involving the outcome of minor children following a divorce or separation. “In the best interest of the child” will be in the mind of the judge as decisions are made.
Should you have minor children and be considering a divorce, it is most definitely wise to use the professional services of an experienced Family Law Attorney as her or she can guide you in developing a parenting plan best suited to your minor children and one a judge would find acceptable. In Florida, all parents of minor children going through separation or divorce are required to take a state-approved parenting class which will also help in knowing how to draw up a workable parenting plan. It is important to remember that “a child is a reason the world should go on” and hopefully both parents will want to have equal input in the care and nurturing of their child.