The term's Child Custody and Visitation no longer exist in Florida. Since October 2008, those words have been written out of the Florida Statutes. Florida is one of the more progressive states in this country when it comes to family law. Child Custody and Visitation have given way to "Parenting Plans"and "Time Sharing." Florida law states that there is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child when creating or modifying the parenting plan of the child. Many years ago, the law in Florida followed the doctrine of "Tender Years" which basically stood for the proposition that a child of tender age should be with the mother. The law today is boldly attempting to be very gender-neutral.
At minimum, a parenting plan must describe in adequate detail how the parents will share and be responsible for daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the child, the timesaving schedule arrangements that specify the time that the minor child will spend the each parent, the designation of who will be responsible for any and all forms of health care, school related matters, other activities, and the methods and technologies the parents would use to communicate with the child. In addition to these issues, the parenting plan generally includes information about the child(rens) (ages, dates of birth, etc.), contingencies for emergency situations, last-minute changes in schedules, vacations, school release days and any number of other foreseeable circumstances. It generally also includes information about how the plan can be changed and about how future disagreements should be handled, for example, requiring mediation before going to Court to resolve a dispute.
Under Florida Law, parental responsibility is almost always shared equally between the parents. Generally speaking, parental responsibility refers to areas such as education, healthcare including elective surgery, contact sports, and the like. Each parent has equal authority with regard to these decisions. However, one parent may be given ultimate responsibility regarding these types of issues after considering the expressed desires of the parents and after considering what is in the best interests of the child. Also, under certain circumstances, one parent may be given sole parental responsibility with or without timesharing for the other parent when it is in the best interests of the minor child. In other words, sole parental responsibility may be granted to a parent and may include that parents right, in their sole and unfettered discretion, whether or not to allow the other parent timesharing. This type of award would be the most restrictive as to the other parent's rights as that parent basically has total and complete control over the child.
When your Judge creates, develops, approves, or modifies a parenting plan, including a timesharing schedule or when your judge establishes or modifies parental responsibility, the judge must make the best interests of the child the primary consideration. Modifying a parenting plan requires that the party seeking the modification prove that there has a been a permanent, substantial, unanticipated, involuntary change in circumstances since the entry of the last court order establishing the existing parenting plan or custodial arrangement.
Some of these factors are more important than the others, for instance, you may convince the judge that you clearly do a better job on many or most of the issues but if it is proven that you convinced the child that the other parent is an awful person, does not love the child, had the other parent investigated on trumped up child abuse allegations, and routinely deny the other parent timesharing with the child simply because you can, well, these factors alone may sway the Judge against you. In other words, the weight the judge gives the individual factors in a particular case is entirely up to the judge so long as all the factors are considered.
With all the above out of the way, the usual and most common situation is that a parenting plan is developed or ordered that divides the number of overnights between the parents, sets up time sharing, encompasses vacation times, with the parties sharing parental responsibility. However, the variations to a parenting plan with timesharing are endless. The best plans are those agreed to by the parties as opposed to having a complete stranger, i.e., a circuit court judge, make these important decisions for you. However as in all areas of family law, when the parties cannot agree the matter is brought before the Judge and the Judge makes the decisions for the parties using the above factors. Sometimes both parties leave the courtroom unhappy. Interestingly, when one party leaves the courtroom happy about the outcome sometimes the fallout from the victory tends to make the "victory" questionable as the other parent may make it their mission in life to make the victorious party, and sometimes unwittingly the children as well, miserable. These issues must be considered before marching into Court. Sometimes the only possible resolution is to bring the matter before the court and then deal with the fallout as it happens. Such is the world of family law.
Robert Hannan would be pleased to consult with you and answer questions you may have regarding your particular situation.