Quality or Quantity? Time-sharing and Divorce in Florida

As a generality, most people prefer quality over quantity. A fabulous three day vacation to an exotic locale beats a week staycation on the couch. One loyal and true friend is worth a dozen fair-weather friends. But in the context of time-sharing with children, parents (and their lawyers) frequently make a hasty decision to prioritize and fight for quantity over quality.

For many couples going through divorce in Florida, the most difficult decisions revolve around the time-sharing schedule for their minor children. Some years back, the lawmakers in Florida saw fit to do away with the traditional terms of “custody” and “visitation.” Now, the structure of the schedule determining when, where, and how children spend time with each parent following a divorce is referred to as a “time-sharing” schedule. If one parent has their minor children in their care most of the time, it is sometimes referred to as a “majority” time-sharing arrangement. If both parents spend the same amount of time caring for the minor children, it is often referred to as an “equal” time-sharing arrangement, or a “fifty-fifty” arrangement.

For divorcing parents, Florida does not have a preferred time-sharing schedule. In fact, Governor Scott recently rejected a bill that heavily promoted the concept of equal time-sharing in Florida. Assuming both parents are fit, equal time-sharing may truly be the best arrangement under certain limited circumstances. If the parents live in the same school district or very close to each other, continue to remain on very good terms with each other, have regular work schedules, and frequently shared parenting duties prior to the divorce, an equal time-sharing schedule may work well.

Continuing the assumption that both parents are fit, equal time-sharing may not be in the best interest of the children if the parents live on the opposite sides of the county, if a parent has an unusual or demanding work schedule, if a child has special needs, or if the parents are not able to engage in positive co-parenting due to the breakdown of their marriage. Under those circumstances, both the parents and the children may benefit from a more traditional time-sharing schedule, which has one parent providing the majority of the day-to-day care.

Most parents truly “just want their children to be happy.” Taking an honest, selfless, look at the needs of the minor children and prioritizing quality time with each parent over measuring the quantity of overnights, may be one way to help reach the ultimate goal of happy children. Divorce lawyers and their clients may be well-served to form a litigation strategy with that goal in mind before filing the divorce papers. Whether a parent is seeking majority time-sharing for themselves, or explaining why the other parent’s claim for majority time-sharing should be defeated, or advocating for equal time-sharing for both parents, the judge may be persuaded by a strategy that promotes quality over quantity.

Post Date: May 27, 2016

By: Krista Mahalak

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