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Changes in the Child Custody Statute

We are told that SB 668 passed both houses of the Florida Legislature and will be sent to the Governor to sign. The bill makes a change to the language of Section 61.13, governing parenting and time sharing.

Section 61.13(2)(c)1 will now state that:

"In establishing a parenting plan and time sharing schedule, the court shall begin with the premise that a minor child should spend approximately equal amounts of time with each parent. Using this premise as a starting point, the court shall formulate a parenting plan and time sharing schedule taking into account the best interests of the child after considering all of the relevant factors in subsection (3). It is the public policy of this state to encourage parents to share in the rights and responsibilities of child rearing."

Subsection (3) specifies the various issues that a court must consider and remains the same as before. And, in fact, the change in the statute does not make any major changes in how most courts have dealt with contact schedules. But there were some differences in the application of the prior statute and this is intended to clarify the legislature's intent.

What stays the same: the parents are still encouraged to develop a parenting plan and contact schedule that is best for their children without the need of a court imposing one. Whatever the parents agree to, so long as it is not obviously harmful to the children the court will approve.

The new language will only apply to those cases where the parents cannot agree. And it makes clear that a parent who believes that one parent or the other has greater rights is mistaken. And it makes clear that there is no presumption in favor of one parent getting more time than the other.

The changes to the new statue are expected to be effective in October of this year and will apply to all cases pending at that time and thereafter. If you are contemplating a divorce and the contact schedule for the children is going to be an issue of dispute, please call me or a consult to insure that you understand your rights and responsibilities.

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