As one of a few
board certified Jacksonville divorce lawyers, I have handled hundreds of child
custody matters. I also have mediated several hundreds of child custody cases.
As a social investigator for our circuit, I have prepared over one hundred
written recommendations for our family law courts as well as testified
as an expert. We no longer refer to child issues in a
divorce case in terms of who has "custody". Florida has adopted the
term "timesharing". Many people confuse the old term "custody"
with "shared parental responsibility". "Shared parental responsiblility" means that you both continue as parents to make decisions for your
children and enjoy all of the rights and responsiblities of parenthood.
"Sole parental responsiblity" means one person makes all the
decisions. This is rare and reserved for extreme cases of abuse to the
children or spouse. "Shared parental responsiblity" does not
mean what we used to call "joint custody" or now, "equal
timesharing". It refers only to decision-making, not the time that
the children spend in each parent's home.
Now that we have "timesharing", the children now spend equal
time with both parents after a divorce, right? Wrong. We have changed the names but the concepts remain the same. There
is NO presumption for "equal timesharing" for both parents,
and in fact, it remains disfavored by the Courts especially for school-age
children. All timesharing arrangements must be approved by the Court (even
if you agree) and approval of "week to week" or "50/50" is rare.
Well, as least no one has "custody", right? Wrong again. While changing the names, the now "majority timesharing"
parent really is the person who has "custody" or what we used
to call the "primary residential parent" and "timesharing"
is just a nicer way of saying "visitation". While these are
merely "labels", the "majority timesharing" parent
does, in effect, have "custody" of the children and with such
a designation comes some benefits such as having the children in their
care more and choosing their school district. Your Jacksonville divorce
lawyer should know your judge, the parenting plan evaluators, and the
opposing counsel so that they can maximize your time with your children.
Are you going to be the "majority timesharing" parent? Sixteen
years of experience have taught me that the following five questions can
answer that question in most cases.
1. Are you the mother? According to a 2009 U.S. Census Bureau Study, only
17.4% of men are custodial parents. This has been unchanged since 1994.
Read the report
2. Were you a stay-at-home parent for most of the marriage?
3. Did the children stay with you when you and your spouse separated?
4. Do you have temporary "majority timesharing" of your children
during the divorce case?
5. Does the parenting plan evaluation recommend you?
If you can answer "yes" to most of these questions, absent some
unusual circumstances, there is a good chance that the Court will award
you the "majority timesharing" of your children. You can further
read the factors that the Court considers
here. Even if you answered "no" to most of those questions, you should
talk to one of the few board certified Jacksonville divorce lawyers about
maximizing your time with your children. And, of course, there are some
special considerations for