Time-sharing / Parenting Plans

Physically spending time with a child is known as “time-sharing,” which used to be called visitation. Time-sharing is ultimately determined in a written document known as a “parenting plan,” which can be agreed upon by the parties or imposed upon them by the Judge if they cannot agree. The parenting plan includes a time-sharing schedule that sets forth specifics as to which parent the children will be with at any particular date and time, including holidays and school breaks. Some parents require very specific time-sharing schedules, specifically setting forth even transportation arrangements and pick-up and drop-off times. Conversely, some divorced couples who are able to co-parent fairly easily require little to no set schedule, choosing instead to be flexible when it comes to the children’s whereabouts, schedules, or activities. Regardless, all divorcing couples must have a parenting plan, whether or not they ultimately choose between themselves to follow it or not. The parenting plan is a baseline governing the schedule for and the rearing of the children, and it can be enforced at any time by either parent if a dispute arises or the parties find it impossible to depart from it.

The time-sharing a parent enjoys is sometimes dependent on the hours he or she works and the distances between the parents’ respective residences. Time-sharing may also take into account the traditional responsibilities each party undertook during the marriage, but often, are based on a new reality of single parents raising a child in a separate household from the other parent. Often, parents’ roles and responsibilities change, and enlarge, after a divorce. For example, if one parent usually worked outside the home while the other stayed home to care or the children, the divorce may have resulted in a shift in child care responsibilities, since both parents may now be working outside of the home. Once a time-sharing schedule of day and nights is devised by the parties, or imposed by the court if the parties cannot agree, child support is determined using a formula taking into account, in part, the number of overnights each child spends with each parent during the year, including holidays and school breaks.

We are often asked how old a child must be before he may make a decision about which parent he wants to live with. In the State of Florida, a child below the age of 18 is not entitled to decide which parent he wants to spend time, or the majority of time, with. That is the parents’ or a Judge’s, decision. Only under very limited and unusual circumstances might a mature, unemancipated child’s opinion be sought, but it is only an opinion and will never be dispositive of the ultimate time-sharing schedule.

At Alspector Family Law, we recognize that you know the unique roles each parent plays and what a child’s individual needs for care and companionship may be. We understand that your family is unique in its customs and traditions for celebrating holidays or vacationing during school breaks. We get to know you and understand your family’s unique rhythms so we can help you propose a time-sharing schedule that works for your children and you. Applying our experience, we guide you toward options that may result in an amicable resolution for time-sharing, rather than have a Judge decide. We will help you craft time-sharing solutions that work for you and your child and generate the least amount of stress possible. If settlement is impossible, we zealously represent you in your time-sharing dispute by presenting cogent arguments and substantiated facts to achieve a favorable determination by the Judge.

Parental Responsibility

It is the public policy of the State of Florida that both parents should be able to fully participate in the lives of their children. This includes both being physically present in their lives by spending time with them and also participating in decisions that affect their health, education and welfare. In keeping with this public policy, it is recognized that joint decision-making by parents, known as “shared parental responsibility,” is usually in the best interests of a child. This means that parents are required to confer and agree regarding “major” decisions. These do not include what color socks the child should wear, but they do include religious decisions (should a child be baptized), medical decisions should the child be permitted to get a nose job or breast implants) and lifestyle decisions (should the child be allowed to get a tattoo or piercing, and at what age).

When a couple divorces, the mode by which decisions relating to the children are made changes dramatically. Perhaps during the marriage, you made the decisions, and your spouse voluntarily declined much involvement. Perhaps you didn’t even confer with your spouse, as you assumed the role of de facto primary decision-maker when it came to the children. It is possible that you and your spouse rarely, if ever, argued about the decisions made by one or the other during the marriage. Now that you are divorcing, decisions that may have been easy to make are no longer so simple. You may not see eye to eye with your spouse about the way to rear your children. You may not get along, barely uttering a civil word to each other. Nonetheless, you are usually required to find a way to co-parent your children with your former spouse.

Only under limited and special circumstances will one parent be afforded “sole parental responsibility”, which means that major decisions affecting a child’s health, education and welfare are made only by that parent without the need to confer with or obtain the consent of the other. This may happen if the other parent has a history of emotional problems, domestic violence or sustained, active substance abuse, or has physically absent from a child’s life for a considerable period of time. Sole parental responsibility is not favored by the courts, and consequently, is rarely granted unless there a compelling reasons.

At Alspector Family Law, we patiently discuss with and educate our clients as to the shifting roles and responsibilities of each parent as a result of a divorce. Sometimes, the changing roles are uncomfortable for one or both parents, but our team encourages our clients to focus on solutions that maximize the best interests of the children. We care about you and your family. We know the divorce process is difficult, and sometimes painful, for you and your children. The changes that are necessary to transition away from an intact family are sometimes tricky to navigate, or frightening for all involved. At Alspector Family Law, we are mindful of and empathetic about this transition.