New Florida Law Creates Rebuttable Presumption Of Equal Time-Sharing
Of the many complicated issues that divorcing couples must contend with when ending a marriage, child custody is perhaps the most emotional and complex. However, a bill that was recently signed into law in Florida aims to clarify parental rights when it comes to child custody. Basically, the law creates a rebuttable presumption that equal time-sharing between two parents is in a child’s best interests. To overcome this presumption, two parents must agree to a different allocation of parenting time, or one parent must establish that an equal time-sharing arrangement is not in a particular child’s best interests.
Presumption of Equal Time-Sharing
A rebuttable presumption is a legal principle that presumes that a certain issue is true unless it can be proven otherwise. The burden of proof to rebut this presumption lies with the person who wants to disprove it. In a child custody context, this means that there will always be a presumed starting point when attempting to determine custody during a Florida divorce. Courts will begin the proceedings by assuming that equal time-sharing is in a child’s best interests, at which point a parent who is not in favor of such an arrangement can present evidence to that effect.
To overcome the presumption of equal time-sharing, a parent must be able to prove by a preponderance of the evidence (or that it is more likely than not) that such an arrangement would not serve a child’s best interests. Alternatively, two parents could mutually agree that equal time-sharing won’t work for their family. Historically, judges have been willing to take a number of factors into account when deciding to opt for a non-equal time-sharing arrangement, such as frequent travel for work, a parent’s health condition, and allegations of substance abuse.
Changes to Modification Criteria
In addition to creating a presumption of equal time-sharing, the new bill also made some changes in regards to the criteria involved when modifying a parenting plan. For instance, under the terms of the new law, a parent’s relocation to live closer to his or her child will automatically qualify as a substantial and material change in circumstances that would justify a modification of a custody arrangement. Prior to this change, a parent in this position would have had to seek approval for a modification. Furthermore, the bill also eliminated the requirement that to justify a modification of a parenting plan, a substantial and material change in circumstances must also have been unanticipated. It is hoped that this change will make it easier for parents to modify their parenting plans when they relocate, obtain new employment, or otherwise undergo a change in circumstances.
Contact Our Office for More Information on Your Parental Rights
To learn more about the recent changes to the custody laws in Florida and how they could affect your own family law case, or to speak with an experienced Florida child visitation and time-sharing lawyer, please call Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. at 954-945-7591.