Do fathers and mothers have equal rights when it comes to custody/time-sharing with their children? At a time when most families are two income households and the mother is not always the primary caregiver for the children, this shouldn’t be a controversial question. The first thing to know is that Florida no longer awards custody of children to parents. Instead, Florida utilizes parenting plans which set forth timesharing schedules between parents and their children. The short answer to the question about timesharing rights is yes. Both fathers and mothers have the right to have time-sharing with their children. The real question is how does the Court determine which parent should have the majority of timesharing for the children or whether the parents should have an equal timesharing schedule? Should both parents or one parent make the major decisions about the childrens’ upbringing? Florida has implemented several factors to be taken into account when deciding what is in the best interests of the child(ren). Below are just a few of these factors:
- 1. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
- 2. The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
- 3. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.
- 4. The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
- 5. The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child.
- 6. The moral fitness of the parents.
A complete list of the factors the Court considers can be found in Florida Statute 61.13 (3).
Sam R. Assini is a member of the Florida Bar, practicing Family Law in Lee County, Florida. His firm’s focus is on Men’s Rights, aggressively representing the interests of husbands and fathers involved in divorce and other family law matters. He can be reached at (239) 829-0166, www.4themen.com. View his Divorce Magazine Profile.