Equal Timesharing – the New Florida Law
Effective July 1, 2023, Florida adopted new legislation with regard to timesharing and there is now a rebuttable presumption that equal timesharing is in a child’s or children’s best interests.
In enacting the equal timesharing provisions, the legislature has included language in the statute, reflecting its intent and providing in relevant part, “[I]t is the public policy of this state that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing.” See Florida Statute Section 61.13 et seq
Even though there is a rebuttable presumption in favor of equal timesharing, a rebuttable presumption is one that can be overcome, so a parent certainly has the opportunity “rebut” or “refute” the presumption in court. In addition, parents are also free to enter into an agreement and adopt a different timesharing arrangement by consent.
In Florida, divorcing couples are required to attend mediation prior to asking the judge to resolve their disputes in court. In addition, some parents enter into agreements prior to mediation or file “uncontested” divorces where they reach an agreement without the necessity of attending mediation. Either way, whether during mediation or by consent, the parties are free to enter into an agreement whereby they adopt a Parenting Plan that includes a timesharing arrangement that is not equal.
Alternatively, parents may choose to litigate the matter and allow the court to decide the timesharing schedule. In that event, a parent has to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that equal timesharing is not in the best interest of the child or children in that case. In this event, the parent may introduce any evidence relevant to this issue. For example, the court may look at practical concerns such as the distance between the parents’ homes and/or between the parents’ homes and the children’s school(s). The court may consider the historical parenting roles within the household, either parent’s work schedule or demands, and/or any special needs of the child or children and who can best meet those needs. The court can consider if there is a high level of conflict between the parents, which might cripple equal timesharing. The court can consider if there have been acts of domestic violence or similar issues in either home. There are myriad factors the court can consider and they vary from case to case, but in the end, the court evaluates the matter under the best interest standard.
A preponderance of the evidence is often stated as whether it is more likely than not that something is a true fact. This is not an extremely high standard of evidence such as we see in criminal cases where proof must be beyond a reasonable doubt.
This is a recent and an important change in the law for all Florida divorcing couples to understand. It is important to hire an attorney to help navigate these changes.
Contact a Jacksonville Divorce Lawyer
If you need help navigating the divorce process, contact our qualified Jacksonville divorce lawyers at The Lasky Law Firm.