There has been a lot of press lately about efforts to reform Florida’s alimony laws. As discussed on this blog, Senate Bill 718 (which primarily deals with alimony reform) passed the Florida House by a wide margin (85 Yeas versus 31 Nays) and, since it had also passed the Florida Senate, will be going to Governor Rick Scott for his signature.
One area that may be even more significant, but has not received as much coverage, is language in Senate Bill 718 that reforms Florida’s child custody laws. Currently, there is no presumption in favor of or against any child custody schedule, including a 50/50 split custody (known as equal time-sharing). Senate Bill 718, however, adds language to section 61.13 of the Florida Statutes that seems to make a strong presumption in favor of equal time-sharing.
The text of the child custody provisions of Senate Bill 718 is reproduced below (deleted language is
stricken while new language is underlined):
Section 5. Paragraph (c) of subsection (2) of section 61.13, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:
61.13 Support of children; parenting and time-sharing; powers of court.—
(c) The court shall determine all matters relating to parenting and time-sharing of each minor child of the parties in accordance with the best interests of the child and in accordance with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, except that modification of a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule requires a showing of a substantial, material, and unanticipated change of circumstances.
1. It is the public policy of this state that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing. There is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child or for or against any specific time-sharing schedule when creating or modifying the parenting plan of the child. Equal time-sharing with a minor child by both parents is in the best interest of the child unless the court finds that:
a. The safety, well-being, and physical, mental, and emotional health of the child would be endangered by equal time-sharing, that visitation would be presumed detrimental consistent with s. 39.0139(3), or that supervised visitation is appropriate, if any is appropriate;
b. Clear and convincing evidence of extenuating circumstances justify a departure from equal time-sharing and the court makes written findings justifying the departure from equal time-sharing;
c. A parent is incarcerated;
d. The distance between parental residences makes equal time-sharing impracticable;
e. A parent does not request at least 50-percent time-sharing;
f. A permanent injunction has been entered or is warranted against a parent or household member relating to contact between the subject of the injunction and the parent or household member; or
g. Domestic violence, as defined in s. 741.28, has occurred.
2. The court shall order that the parental responsibility for a minor child be shared by both parents unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child. Evidence that a parent has been convicted of a misdemeanor of the first degree or higher involving domestic violence, as defined in s. 741.28 and chapter 775, or meets the criteria of s. 39.806(1)(d), creates a rebuttable presumption of detriment to the child. If the presumption is not rebutted after the convicted parent is advised by the court that the presumption exists, shared parental responsibility, including time-sharing with the child, and decisions made regarding the child, may not be granted to the convicted parent. However, the convicted parent is not relieved of any obligation to provide financial support. If the court determines that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child, it may order sole parental responsibility and make such arrangements for time-sharing as specified in the parenting plan as will best protect the child or abused spouse from further harm. Whether or not there is a conviction of any offense of domestic violence or child abuse or the existence of an injunction for protection against domestic violence, the court shall consider evidence of domestic violence or child abuse as evidence of detriment to the child.
a. In ordering shared parental responsibility, the court may consider the expressed desires of the parents and may grant to one party the ultimate responsibility over specific aspects of the child’s welfare or may divide those responsibilities between the parties based on the best interests of the child. Areas of responsibility may include education, health care, and any other responsibilities that the court finds unique to a particular family.
b. The court shall order sole parental responsibility for a minor child to one parent, with or without time-sharing with the other parent if it is in the best interests of the minor child.
3. Access to records and information pertaining to a minor child, including, but not limited to, medical, dental, and school records, may not be denied to either parent. Full rights under this subparagraph apply to either parent unless a court order specifically revokes these rights, including any restrictions on these rights as provided in a domestic violence injunction. A parent having rights under this subparagraph has the same rights upon request as to form, substance, and manner of access as are available to the other parent of a child, including, without limitation, the right to in-person communication with medical, dental, and education providers.
Section 6. The amendments made by this act to s. 61.13, Florida Statutes, providing for equal time-sharing, apply prospectively to initial final custody orders made on or after July 1, 2013. The amendments do not constitute a substantial change in circumstances that warrant the modification of a final custody order entered before July 1, 2013.
These changes will surely have an effect not only on cases going through courtroom battles but also on cases going through the private process of collaborative divorce and family law.
If you have questions on how these changes may affect your Florida child custody matter and you wish to speak with a Tampa Bay child custody attorney, schedule a consultation with The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., by calling us at (813) 443-0615 or by filling out our contact form.