Is there a presumption for joint child custody in Florida?

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Readers may be recall that Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a bill that would have created a presumption of equal time-sharing in child custody cases. Does that mean that courts disfavor equal arrangements? Not at all.

First, it is important to understand that a presumption is merely a type of legal shortcut, whereby the court would assume certain facts to be true, unless proven otherwise. Yet when it comes to the best interest of the child standard, our family law office has found that each child’s circumstances are unique.

Said another way, there really is no shortcut to evaluating the type of visitation arrangement that would most benefit the child, while working within the parents’ or caregivers’ needs and schedules. By vetoing the bill, Gov. Scott simply affirmed that each issue in a family law case benefits from separate and thorough analysis.

Typically, a court will request a parenting plan proposal from the divorcing spouses. The plan should address not only time-sharing, but also contingencies like holidays, birthdays, and transportation. Even if not an official presumption, Florida courts generally assume that a child benefits from spending time with his or her parent. However, the precise formula does not have to be 50-50.

It is also important to remember that visitation arrangements can be modified. Parents may have to move for work. In some cases, a custodial parent may seek to relocate with the child. If the noncustodial parent consents, the court will likely approve the request. If the relocation request is disputed, the court may have to revisit the best interest of the child analysis.

Source: Tampa Bay Times, “Gov. Rick Scott vetoes controversial alimony bill, says it could harm children in divorce cases,” Steve Bousquet, April 15, 2016

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