Sunday, February 28, 2016

50/50 Custody May Soon be the Default in Florida

Family Law is notoriously contentious.  The emotion of a divorce or child custody battle is unlike any other area of law.  The parties intimately know each other and they are most able to annoy/destroy the other party.  The attorneys on either side are generally above the fray, but sometimes even the attorneys can get emotionally involved.  Problems abound.  

The Big Fight:

When children are involved, time-sharing (a/k/a "custody") is generally the main issue. Everyone wants "full custody," "sole custody," which is now called majority time-sharing in Florida even if they don't really want majority time-sharing.  That's what everyone is fighting over.  The time-sharing split affects other parts of child-rearing including whether a parent must pay child support, and whether a parent gets the child-rearing credit for their taxes each year.  

Demanding Majority Time-Sharing:

Guess what?  When you go to court and demand majority time-sharing, you're actually hurting your case. Florida law encourages equal time-sharing, which is still rare.   The law also encourages that the parent support a relationship with the other parent.  This can be very difficult for some parents.

The Pros and Cons of Discretion:

Judges have discretion, which is affected by their personal beliefs on parenting.  This leaves at least one parent unhappy, and every good lawyer knows that you do not want the judge to make the final decision.  No one wins.

One legislator who knows first-hand the pain of a divorce with children is making a move to take away some judicial discretion.  

50/50 Default?

A bill is moving through the Florida Legislature to default time-sharing to equal with the judge's ability to modify based on 22 factors including child's preference, travel time and parent's request. Unfortunately, this is coupled with an alimony overhaul that could lead to it dying.  A 50/50 default is...interesting.  We live in a world where everyone still tends to believe mom is best equipped to raise a child whether they admit it or not.  This is obviously the most equitable start to any divorce.  

Of course, there are critics.  The "best interest of the child" is still the standard.  Passing a child back and forth may not be the best.  Also, for very young children, breastfeeding experts are pointing out the logisticsimpossibilities of this. 

The Verdict?

Some "experts" are saying joint custody is always best, and others are saying joint custody is never best.   The bottom line is that when it comes to an individual child, there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach.  The system is very flawed, and a judge, lawyer, a hired gun, and sometimes even their parent doesn't know best.  The effort to make the system better is appreciated, but we aren't sold that this is the best start.  

If you have questions about your child-custody battle, call us.  We aren't going to sell you a dream. We are going to be real with you about the Family Courts.  For more information, call 904-516-5560, or visit 

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