When it comes to establishing child custody, the arrangement with which people are most likely familiar is one in which the mother is awarded primary physical custody -- meaning the child will live with her the majority of the time -- and the father is awarded visitation rights -- meaning time with the children on weekends, holidays and other predetermined times.
Interestingly enough, however, there has been a growing movement among both fathers' rights and family advocacy groups over the last several years to challenge this longstanding legal trend. Indeed, more states than ever now have so-called shared parenting bills on the books.
As implied by the name, shared parenting laws essentially call for children to split their time 50-50 with both parents.
Advocates have long argued that enabling children of separation or divorce to spend equal time with both parents can go a long way toward creating a strong emotional foundation and helping pave the way for their future success (reduced rates of truancy, juvenile crimes, etc.).
While Florida does not have a shared parenting law, this may soon change given that the state legislature has now sent just such a bill to the desk of Governor Rick Scott.
Currently, the law provides that both the best interests of the child and 20 separate factors are to be considered by judges when awarding custody.
Under the proposed bill, however, judges would start with the presumption that a 50-50 custody split is in the best interests of the child, but still have discretion to deviate from this arrangement after weighing the aforementioned factors.
It's worth noting that the bill, which passed both chambers with relative ease, is not without its critics. Indeed, many are arguing that a shared parenting law would infringe upon judicial discretion, create logistical difficulties for children and send parents into court more often.
It remains to be seen what Governor Scott will do. The last time a shared parenting measure was sent to his desk two years ago, he vetoed it over its failure to include a provision prohibiting couples from modifying their existing arrangements. This version contains no such provision.
Stay tuned for updates …
If you have questions or concerns related to child custody or a divorce-related matter, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.