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Effective October 1st, 2008, are the most far reaching changes to parental responsibility in twenty-six years in the state of Florida.  Some might argue that the new changes only relate to nomenclature; however deleting custody, primary residential parent, rotating custody and requiring a detailed parenting plan in every case goes far beyond just terminology.  The new phrase that is used when discussing custody matters, is now called "time-sharing."  Parental responsibility and child issues are the most emotionally charged issues of all issues in a dissolution of marriage case.  The duties and responsibilities of a family lawyer and family court judge are the greatest and most complex.  When divorcing parents cede to the judicial branch of government the duty to decide the most intimate family issues, it is not unlikely that one or both parents will be less than satisfied with the decision.  The bench and bar for years now encouraged divorcing parents to revolve their differences through mediation.  In effect, parents have been urged to make their own law, in the hope that they can better live with a decision that is their own, rather than a decision that is externally imposed.  

Pinellas County Child Custody Attorney

How is Custody "Time-Sharing" determined?

A parent who wants a court order granting him or her custody will usually also want the other parent to pay him/her child support.  Also, unless the other parent poses a danger to the child, the other parent will be entitled to some form of visitation, otherwise known as "time-sharing."  If you are not married, and only wish to obtain time-sharing, you can still use the paternity procedure.  Florida law provides that "the mother and father jointly are natural guardians of their own children."  This statement in the law works fine for a married couple living with their child as a family unit.  Problems arise when the parents are not married, or when they are married but separate or divorce.  When a dispute arises between parents in these circumstances, other provisions in the law come into play.  For unmarried parents, custody may be resolved through a paternity lawsuit, which is governed by Chapter 742 of the Florida Statutes.  Paternity suits are usually filed when a father wants to establish time-sharing with his child(ren).  In making a decision about time-sharing, the judge will usually consider the following factors (falling under the child's best interest rule):  1) The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the child and each parent; 2) The mental and physical health of each parent; 3) The moral fitness of each parent; 4) The home, school, and community record of the child; 5) The length of time the child has lived with either parent in a stable environment; 6) any other factory the judge decides as relevant. The general rule is that the judge should make a determination of what is in the child's best interests.  All of the other factors mentioned are attempts to describe what things are in the best interest of the child.  Some of these factors will be more relevant to divorce situations, and other will be more relevant to unmarried parents.  If you have any questions about custody law, please contact us to set up your consultation!