SHARED PARENTING Part 2
by Shawn Hungate.
Shared parenting is the most positive method to restructure the family after a divorce or, in the case of unmarried couples, an establishment of paternity. But, in cases where there is serious child abuse, ongoing and serious domestic violence, or other extreme situations, like one parent going to prison for a significant amount of time, the Court may order that shared parenting would be harmful to the children. In those cases, the Court can order Sole Parental Responsibility. These cases are very rare, and the Court is generally loathe to order it. This kind of case creates a situation where one parent makes all the decisions regarding the child.
In divorce and paternity cases where the Court finds that both parents are unfit to care for the children, the Court may award custody to a third party. In Domestic Relations Court (where divorces and paternity cases are heard), this is extremely rare, as before anything like that comes up, the Florida Department of Children and Families usually will get involved and a Juvenile Dependency case is filed.
Florida has a public policy to ensure that children have continuing and meaningful contact with both of their parents. As the parents no longer reside together after a divorce, they have to come up with a time-sharing schedule. This is now done through a Parenting Plan, which is required in all divorces or paternity cases. It used to be the law that one parent was granted “custody”, or “primary residential responsibility”. Those terms are no longer used in Florida. Although one parent may be designated as the custodial parent for purposes of laws outside of the state, the closest term used now is the parent with the “majority of overnights”. This is not to say that parent has “custody”, though. Most divorces or paternity cases still grant both parents equal rights in raising the children regardless of where the children spend most of their time.
The time sharing schedule can be as flexible or as structured as is needed by the Mother and Father, and, for that matter, the children. This schedule can include an old-fashioned every other weekend, evenly divided holidays, and half the summer, type schedule; or an equal time sharing, or “rotating” schedule. Although it is not necessarily the rule in all cases, “rotating” schedules have become much more common recently, as the Courts have begun to recognize Father’s rights to participate in the raising of their children more and more over the years. In fact, no preference is given any more to the Mother simply because she is the Mother.
There are several factors spelled out in Florida Statutes Chapter 61 that guide the Court in determining the Parenting Plan and time sharing schedule for the children if the parties cannot reach a resolution on their own. If possible, it is better for the parents to come up with their own Parenting Plan and time sharing schedule, as the Court can never know the particulars of any given case as well as the parents.
If you have any questions about Time Sharing or Parenting Plans, feel free to call me at 407-846-1529 (407-846-1-LAW) for a free initial consultation. Shawn L. Hungate, Attorney at Law, 811 Patrick Street, Kissimmee, Florida, 34741.