Understanding Your Rights: Parental Responsibility and Time-Sharing in Florida

florida custody laws

Divorce is hard. It took some tough conversations and decisions, with yourself and with your partner, for you to make it to this point. And when you have children, it makes the situation that much more difficult.

Who gets the kids for the holidays? What happens if one of you decides to relocate? Can your ex legally keep the children from you?

These are the tough, emotionally charged questions divorcing parents in Florida have to deal with when determining parental responsibility and time-sharing arrangements.

Making the right choices now can profoundly impact your children’s well-being and your ability to remain an active, engaged parent in their lives down the road.

The Different Types of Parental Responsibility and Time-Sharing in Florida

Unlike some other states, Florida does not use the terms “custody” or “visitation” when discussing a parent’s legal rights to their child. Instead, we use the terms parental responsibility and time-sharing.

Parental Responsibility

Parental Responsibility covers which parent(s) has the legal authority to make major decisions about the child’s upbringing. There are two main forms this can take: shared and sole parental responsibility.

Shared Parental Responsibility

Both mom and dad essentially share equal rights in making big decisions for their kid involving things like education, healthcare, religious upbringing, etc. This is presumed to be in the child’s best interests unless evidence shows otherwise.

Sole Parental Responsibility

Only one parent retains the exclusive authority to make those major life decisions on behalf of the child. This may occur if the other parent is deemed unfit due to issues like abuse, neglect, or other disqualifying circumstances.

Time-Sharing

Time-sharing refers to the custodial calendar that dictates how much physical custody time the child actually spends in each parent’s home. Some common arrangements include equal and majority/minority time-sharing.

Equal Time-Sharing

The kids split their time evenly between both parents’ homes, often through a week-on/week-off rotation or something similar. This arrangement is also presumed to be in the child’s best interests unless evidence shows otherwise.

Unequal/Majority Time-Sharing

The child resides primarily with one parent as the majority timeshare while having scheduled custodial periods with the other parent, such as every other weekend.

The idea is to create a customized parental responsibility and time-sharing plan that maintains consistency, facilitates relationships between the child and both parents when appropriate, and ultimately serves the unique child’s best interests based on the specific family situation.

How Florida Courts Determine Custody Arrangements

When parents cannot agree on a parenting arrangement, Florida courts decide on parental responsibility and time-sharing using the “best interests of the child” standard outlined in Florida Statutes Section 61.13.

The court evaluates all relevant factors, including:

  • The ability of each parent to facilitate a close parent-child relationship
  • Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, or neglect
  • The mental and physical health of the parents
  • The child’s preference, if the child is of sufficient maturity
  • The need for continuity in the child’s life
  • And other factors impacting the child’s best interests

There is a rebuttable presumption that shared parental responsibility, and equal or approximately equal time-sharing is in the best interests of the child unless a parent proves otherwise.

What if the Parents Aren’t Married? Parental Responsibility and Time-Sharing for Unmarried Parents

In Florida, the fact that parents are unmarried does not prevent them from having shared parental responsibility or time-sharing with their child. The same laws and “best interests of the child” standard apply whether the parents are married or not.

However, before parental responsibility or time-sharing can be determined for unmarried parents, the paternity of the child must first be legally established. This can be done by both parents signing an Acknowledgment of Paternity, getting a court order establishing paternity, or other methods outlined by the Department of Revenue. Once paternity is established, the court can then determine parental responsibility and time-sharing arrangements.

Common Time-Sharing Schedules in Florida

You have nearly limitless options for crafting time-sharing schedules in Florida. The schedule should reflect what works best for your family situation – you can adopt a popular pre-set schedule as is, make adjustments, or create something entirely customized.

Here are some common time-sharing schedules to consider as a starting point:

Equal Time-Sharing Schedules (50/50)

  • Alternating Weeks: Children spend one week with one parent, the next week with the other parent
  • 3-4-4-3 Schedule: Children spend 3 days with one parent, 4 days with the other, then swap the 4 and 3 days the following week
  • 2-2-5-5 Schedule: Children spend 2 days with one parent, 2 days with the other, followed by 5 days with the first parent and 5 with the second

Majority/Minority Time-Sharing

  • Every Extended Weekend (60/40): Children spend weekdays with one parent and extended weekends (Friday after school to Monday morning) with the other
  • Every Weekend (70/30): Children spend weekdays with one parent and weekends with the other
  • Alternating Weekends (80/20): Children live primarily with one parent but spend every other weekend with the other

The schedule must also account for summer breaks, holidays, and special occasions like birthdays. Popular options include alternating holidays each year or having set holiday schedules.

Can a Parent Relocate with Children After Divorce?

Florida has strict relocation laws when a custodial parent wants to move away with a child after divorce. Under Section 61.13001, if the intended relocation is more than 50 miles away for at least 60 consecutive days, the relocating parent must:

  • Obtain written consent from the other parent OR
  • Obtain court approval if consent is not given

Relocating without the other parent’s consent or court approval can result in contempt charges and potential modification of the parenting plan and time-sharing schedule.

When consent is not given, the relocating parent must file a petition with the court to approve the relocation. Key factors the court considers include:

  • The reason for the relocation request
  • If the schedule can be modified to maintain parent-child relationships
  • The preferences of the child if they are mature enough
  • Whether the relocation is in the best interests of the child

The court aims to create an updated parenting plan and time-sharing schedule that allows for a relationship with both parents if relocation is permitted.

Can Parental Rights Be Terminated in Florida?

While determinations of parental responsibility and time-sharing aim to uphold the rights of both parents when in the child’s best interests, there are situations where parental rights can be legally terminated in Florida.

In cases involving severe child abuse, abandonment, or neglect, the Florida Dependency Court may make decisions regarding the termination of parental rights. This typically involves the Department of Children and Families and other law enforcement agencies.

The dependency court has the authority to completely terminate parental rights if evidence shows a parent has engaged in egregious conduct that threatens the wellbeing of the child.

Termination permanently severs all rights and responsibilities of that parent towards the child. However, it is considered a last resort reserved for the most extreme situations harming the child’s safety and well-being when termination is deemed in the child’s best interests by the court.

Protect Your Parental Rights with Experienced Legal Counsel

Issues surrounding parental responsibility, time-sharing, paternity, and termination of parental rights require skilled legal guidance. The outcomes of these cases can permanently alter your ability to make decisions for your child and be a meaningful part of their life.

At Vollrath Law, our family law attorneys have extensive experience advocating for fair parental responsibility and time-sharing arrangements in even the most complex disputes. We understand what’s at stake and will fight to uphold your rights while focusing on your child’s best interests.

Don’t navigate these high-stakes matters alone. Our legal team can evaluate your unique situation and develop a strategy to pursue a positive resolution inside or outside the courtroom.

Take the first step by scheduling a consultation to discuss your case.

Author Bio

Stephanie Vollrath is an Owner and Partner of Vollrath Law, a Florida estate planning law firm she founded in 2013. With more than seven years of experience in investments and financial advising and 13 years practicing law in Florida, she represented clients in a wide range of estate planning cases. Her practice areas include wills, trusts, guardianship, probate, and other estate planning matters.

Stephanie received her Juris Doctor from the Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law and is a member of the Florida Bar and the Seminole County Bar Association.

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