child's best interestsSome of the most important “parties” to a Florida divorce actually have little direct say in how the issues are resolved. Those parties are, of course, a couple’s minor children. The care of the children should be the most important concern of any couple contemplating or going through a divorce. Following a divorce, the former spouses have no binding relationship with each other. If there are minor children, they are still parents. Resolving property interests is important; the welfare of their child or children is paramount.

“Time-Sharing,” Not Custody

In 2008, the State of Florida did away with a number of “dated” terms, such as “custody” or “primary residential parent,” substituting instead, “time-sharing,” since the Legislature indicated that it is the strong public policy of Florida that any minor child have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after a separation or dissolution of the parents’ marriage.

No Presumption Favoring Either Spouse

In light of that public policy, neither the Florida father nor mother is favored (or disfavored) with a presumption that he or she should be afforded the bulk of time within the time-sharing schedule. All matters relating to time-sharing of a minor child or children must instead be determined by the Court in accordance with the “best interests” of the child (or children).

Child’s “Best Interests”

  • 61.13, Fla. Stat. provides an extensive 20-item list of considerations to be used by a Court in determining what is or is not in a child’s “best interests.” Some of the considerations are:
  • The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required
  • The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties
  • The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child, as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent
  • The length of time that the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity
  • The moral fitness of the parents
  • The home, school, and community record of the child
  • The reasonable preference of the child, if the Court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference
  • The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime
  • Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect – regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought
  • The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child, which is free from substance abuse

In addition to those considerations specified in the statute, the Court may also consider any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.

Is a Divorce in Your Future?

If you are facing a divorce, separation, or other family law issue, particularly if a child or children are involved, you owe it not only to yourself, but also to those children, to seek experienced legal counsel to help you maneuver through the process. The stakes could not be higher. You need a strong advocate. At Beller & Bustamante, P.L., we have the experience and knowledge to be aggressive advocates for you and your children. To learn more about divorce and time-sharing arrangements or to schedule an initial consultation, contact Beller & Bustamante, P.L. online or call us at (904) 288-4414 today.