When two people decide to end their marriage, one of the most contentious issues can be child custody. Florida law does not recognize the concept of “custody” when it comes to children, but rather imposes a “time-sharing” scheme that determines how much time a child or children will spend with each parent. The law gives Florida courts wide discretion in ordering time-sharing determinations, which must be made by considering the “best interests of the child.” Time-sharing can range from equal time-sharing to sole parental responsibility for a child based on the particular circumstances of a case. The relevant statute lists a variety of factors that the court may consider, including the following:
“Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.”
As a result of this provision, the court may consider anything it deems relevant to a time-sharing schedule, including a parent’s financial problems, criminal history, tendency towards domestic violence, substance abuse problems, or other issues that could affect the best interests of the child. On the other side of that coin, a court may also consider a parent’s efforts and demonstrated ability to manage and ameliorate these and other issues. While it is obviously true that individuals can make positive life changes without the intervention of professionals or support programs, these are often effective ways to establish the existence of positive change to courts making time-sharing schedule determinations between parents. Some of the types of activities that can influence a court making a time-sharing determination include the following:
Participation in a 12-step program – For parents who have had issues with substance abuse that has affected their perceived ability to parent their child or children, participation in a 12-step program may be the type of evidence that a court could consider in determining whether these issues still exist. Often, the testimony of a sponsor or other member can help establish that the parent is successfully abstaining from substance abuse.
Credit counseling – In some cases, a court may be hesitant to award a parent a significant amount of time-sharing with a child or children due to poor living conditions caused by financial problems. For example, a parent could be in living in substandard conditions or have a history of having utilities disconnected due to nonpayment. Participation in credit counseling courses and a period of financial responsibility may be sufficient to allay any concerns the court may have that a parent’s financial situation could be detrimental to his or her ability to parent.
Anger management or other forms of counseling – The relevant statute specifically mentions that domestic violence convictions create a rebuttable presumption of detriment to the child. This means that the burden rests on the parent convicted of domestic violence to present evidence that time-sharing with that parent would not constitute a detriment to the child. In addition, other acts of violence may also be considered by the court. Participation in anger management or other forms of counseling may be sufficient to convince a court that a parent is adequately dealing with any violent tendencies that may have existed in the past.
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Florida family law attorney Alan R. Burton is dedicated to helping people with family law issues resolve them as favorably as possible. Do not hesitate to contact our office today to schedule a free consultation.