Time Sharing in the Best Interests of the Child

Time Sharing in the Best Interests of the Child

Florida Law now calls Child Custody by a new term: “Time Sharing”. The concept of Time Sharing is based upon the assumption that the child deserves to spend time with both parents, not just a single parent. This assumption includes the premise that extraordinary, potentially negative factors do not exist that would create the necessity for only one parent to raise the child. Such extraordinary, potentially negative factors include child abuse, child abandonment, sexual abuse, parent incarceration, et cetera.

Most Time Sharing plans start with a 50/50 presumption. This means that the designer of the Time Sharing Plan starts with awarding each parent an equal amount of time with the child. The Courts measure “time with the child” by counting overnights the child spends with one parent or the other.

Once a base-line 50/50 plan has been designed, special conditions are considered, and the plan adjusted. For example, one parent must work nights and can’t regularly have the child overnight. Accommodations must be made for this situation to make the Time Sharing fair.

Each year has 365 days. A 50/50 plan would therefore result in each parent time sharing with the child 182.5 overnights through the year. Most plans I have seen give 182 overnights to one parent and 183 overnights to the other.

The difficulty with time sharing plans is distributing those days on the yearly calendar. The first concern is determining where the child will spend his/her overnights during the school year.

Each parent usually has strong feelings regarding what exactly is in their child’s best interest. A key issue is finding a solution to the child overnight problem that respects the child’s need for stability, safety, and continuity. For example, it could be possible that the child spend one half of the school year residing in the Father’s home and attending school in his school district  and then, mid-year, transitioning to living in the Mother’s home and attending school in her school district. But this is hardly an optimal solution.

Remember, the guiding principle the Courts will use in approving a Time Sharing plan is that the plan must be in the best interest of the child.

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