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Understanding Your Rights And Obligations In Florida Parenting Plans And Timesharing

During a divorce, agreeing on where your child will live, how often you will spend time with your child, and in what ways you and your ex-spouse will share in your child’s milestones is a difficult task. The idea of having restricted access and going days without physically holding your son or daughter is equally upsetting. It is no surprise that many parents react by clinging to their child and fighting hard for custody. 

This emotionally super-charged issue makes it vital to work with an experienced family lawyer to ensure the best interests of your child. An attorney versed in crafting and implementing parenting plans and timesharing agreements will ensure they comply with the law. They will also preserve your rights to have a relationship with your child and make sure they are protected. 

What A Parenting Plan Is

The primary focus of Florida judges is to foster ongoing and meaningful contact between parents and their children. It is ideal for children of divorcing parents to have a parenting plan. This will allow parents to share in the responsibilities and privileges of raising their child. 

Timesharing is a critical aspect of any parenting plan, but there are additional components a court requires to approve it:

  • Who will be responsible for daily parenting tasks
  • Who provides for the child’s health care
  • Whose address will be used to determine where the child attends school
  • How parents will communicate with the child when in each other’s care
  • How will holidays be split between the parents

The Importance Of Creating A Mutually Acceptable Parenting Plan

You may want to have your child live with you the majority of the time. However, it is still beneficial to parent and children alike that your parenting plan allows compromise. There are many benefits to taking this approach, though sometimes working with a skilled Lakeland divorce attorney to help mediate may be necessary.

Couples who cannot agree on a parenting plan risk leaving it to the court to decide. This could create a situation that provides you with much less than you had hoped for and is not the best approach to settling timesharing and parenting plan issues. 

If divorcing parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, the court will consider these factors in creating one for them:

  • Any history of abuse
  • The strength of the parent-child relationship on both sides
  • Each parent’s willingness to maintain the other parent’s relationship with the child
  • Who has historically provided for the child’s basic needs
  • Other obligations for each parent
  • Social support system for each parent
  • Each parent’s geographic location
  • How each plan protects the child’s stability
  • The child’s preference, depending on the child’s age

If you are in a situation where you cannot agree to a parenting plan with an ex-spouse, you should enlist the help of a divorce lawyer right away. It is critically important that you avoid forcing the court to settle the matter.

What Is Timesharing?

The state of Florida has moved away from “custody-centric” terminology and now uses a different timesharing approach to shared parenting. Timesharing schedules allow parents to share equal rights to spend time with their children in an agreed-upon parenting plan. This helps to alleviate tension between ex-spouses over custody as neither is a custodial parent. Unfortunately, co-parenting is not always easy to arrive at an agreement and can cause bitter disputes. 

If you or your ex-spouse cannot come to an agreement on the amount of time you each will spend with your child, the court will create an arrangement for you. When doing so, the “best interest” standard is used, along with numerous other factors outlined in the state statute governing timesharing

For divorcing couples that cannot reach an agreement, working with an experienced Lakeland divorce attorney with mediation services may be your best hope of avoiding a court-ordered time share plan. 

Factors That Can Affect Scheduling 

The court begins with the presumption that both parents should have equal timesharing with their child. This may lead to a week-on, week-off schedule, or a 2-2-3 schedule. These are just a few of many options possible to meet your child’s needs despite work schedules getting in the way.

While many courts would presume that equal time is in a child’s best interest, this is not always the case. Some scheduling factors will be taken into consideration by the presiding judge, which could include:

One parent being unable to use or not wanting half of the available parenting time. This situation often occurs because of a work schedule, the distance between the parent and child, or other obligations that get in the way of this allotted time. A family lawyer could assist you in creating a slightly modified timesharing arrangement. One that maximizes the time both parents have with their child while still accommodating each other’s work schedules.

Medical needs may require one parent to have more time. If your child has a disability or medical need that requires daily care, one parent may need to have a larger percentage of the time share agreement to facilitate care while the other parent works. 

Previous instances of abuse in the household. Another factor that can interfere with a parent getting equal access to their child involves abusive situations like domestic violence, substance abuse, or other issues that could jeopardize the child’s well-being. A court may determine that supervised visitation is best. This could be temporary or more permanent, but it is generally decided on a case-by-case basis.

In situations where one parent wants more time or can exercise more timesharing because of these issues, they could receive it. Any support ordered for the child will also get adjusted accordingly. 

Courts Preference For Timesharing Agreements

By transitioning from a custodial approach to a timeshare agreement, the state of Florida has equalized the division of parental responsibility after a divorce. Under state law, a timesharing schedule ordered by the court will use factors similar to those applied to parenting plans. 

Besides considering each parent’s moral fitness and mental and physical health, a family court judge will also want to ensure the following:

  • The child’s current environment, including their school, community presence, and which parent provides personal care regularly instead of a third-party provider.
  • The amount of responsibility each parent expects or wants after the divorce gets finalized.
  • Geographical barriers that may interfere with a timesharing plan.
  • If the child currently lives in a stable environment and if the parents want that situation to continue.
  • Preference of the child, if mature enough to express their opinion
  • Review of any potential abuse situations, including domestic violence, neglect, sexual and/or physical abuse, etc.
  • If either parent has attempted to provide the court with false allegations of abuse.
  • Will the parents be involved with their child’s extra-curricular activities or school functions
  • Can the parents meet the developmental needs of their child
  • How parental responsibilities were handled before and throughout the divorce process.

The court will also require parents to demonstrate their ability to provide consistent oversight of the child. Additionally, the court will also require parents to refrain from making acrimonious comments to the child about the other parent or seek to alienate the other parent’s relationship. 

What To Do In Instances Of Abuse?

Parents who have domestic abuse convictions, whether in Bartow, Florida, or in another state, will need to demonstrate good cause for receiving parenting time with their child. If a judge accepts their basis and agrees that such visitation benefits the child, further arrangements to ensure the child’s safety may be necessary. This could mean supervised visitation, phone calls, or other means of communication. 

If a parent has previous criminal convictions, they are at risk of having their time sharing and other parenting rights severely limited or revoked. These situations require a knowledgeable Lakeland divorce attorney to help protect their parental rights and convince the court to allow parenting access. 

In instances involving any of the below crimes, there is the potential for having your rights terminated:

  • History as a sexual predator or as a violent criminal
  • Instances of sexual or aggravated child abuse against the child
  • Has murder convictions in the first or second-degree
  • Previous conviction of first-degree felony sexual battery
  • A prior instance of conspiring to murder the ex-spouse or child through a third-party

How Darla K. Snead, P.L. Attorney at Law, Can Help You

There is a lot at stake when it comes to this part of a divorce. Each individual’s parenting rights and financial security are at stake, giving both parties significant motivation to fight hard to protect themselves. Darla K. Snead knows how these discussions and negotiations can weaken a strong co-parenting relationship and lead to unnecessary fights. As a Lakeland divorce attorney with over 23 years of experience in The 10th Judicial Circuit Court, she has served thousands of families in Polk, Hardee, and Highlands Counties. She understands the emotional triggers that these topics cause and knows how to overcome them with careful, empathetic communication.

If you and your ex-partner both want what is best for your child but are having difficulty expressing that, she can advocate for you and create an environment where an acceptable compromise is possible. If you are trying to co-parent with an individual who is purposely inconveniencing or hurting you through this process, she will do whatever it takes to defend your parental rights and protect your best interests.

Divorce is never easy, but going through it with a trusted support system will positively impact your stress levels. When you choose Darla K. Snead, you can feel comfortable reaching out with questions or concerns and discussing what you want to get out of the divorce process.

Your Parenting Plan And Timesharing Attorney

Ready to start working with one of the top divorce lawyers in Lakeland? Darla K. Snead, P.L. Attorney at Law, is here to help. Whether you are just getting started in the divorce process or you are revising a child support award, strong legal representation is crucial. Turn to someone you can trust to fight aggressively for you – call us at Darla K. Snead, P.L. Attorney at Law, or, contact us online.