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Child Custody Measure Approved in Florida Senate

Currently there is tremendous division in the Florida legislature over SB 250, the child custody measure that just passed the state Senate. Some say that it would place women, in particular, at a disadvantage by setting the default to a 50-50 child custody plan and forcing them to hire attorneys, go back to court frequently, etc. Others defend the proposal, saying that it would clarify the law where it is (currently) vague for judges. There is a separate alimony bill (HB 455) also making its way through the legislature which has also drawn criticism, although less so than that of child custody.

SB 250 would force courts to assume that equal time-sharing between parents is in the best interest of a child, whereby any deviation from this would require a judge to issue a written order explaining why unequal time-sharing is required in a given case. Many are questioning why such a measure is necessary–given that Florida already encourages joint custody–and arguing that legislation which makes it an assumption that joint custody is in the best interest of the child could result in some serious pitfalls (when it is not in their best interest).

Alimony and Custody Battles

The battle continues with regards to whether the two separate bills—one concerning alimony, the other child custody—should be merged as a package, considering that both address family law and divorce-related issues. Support and opposition continues to point out that judges should retain flexibility with regards to both child custody and alimony issues and not be boxed into a particular decision via legislation, while others argue that the current system is flawed and tends to favor whichever partner is better off financially at the expense of the family.

Current Law in Florida

Under Florida law, there is no presumption for or against either parent or for any specific time-sharing schedule when the parenting plan is created or modified. The court already orders that parental responsibility be shared until it is explicitly found that doing so would be detrimental to the child, where certain findings create a rebuttable presumption of detriment to the child, such as evidence of one parent being convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor or higher involving domestic violence. Aside from this, the court has the power to order sole parental responsibility to one parent—with or without time-sharing—if it is in the best interests of the child. The court takes a variety of factors into account in determining what is in the best interests of the child.

Contact Us for Assistance with Child Custody

Whether you are interested in establishing a time-sharing parental plan, or seeking parental rights over your child, we can help. We provide help to both spouses engaged in divorce and/or custody battles. Contact us at the office of Sandra Bonfiglio today to schedule a consultation—we serve clients in Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, and surrounding areas.

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