Sometimes divorcing parents feel like the odds are stacked against them when it comes to how they’ll be able to share in the continued parenting of their child. State laws are slowly but surely evolving so that they presume – unless and until proven otherwise – that it’s best for a child to divide their time equally between their parents.
Florida law took an important step in that direction this year. Both houses of the state legislature overwhelmingly passed legislation creating a “rebuttable presumption” that 50-50 timesharing is in a child’s best interests. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it into law, and it took effect on July 1. Prior to this law, there was no specific presumption regarding how parenting time should be divided.
Fairness and “equal footing”
As one of the lawmakers behind the legislation explained, “This means that when the parents walk into court, they do so from a place of fairness and on equal footing. It does not mean that they walk out of court on equal footing.” If divorcing parents can’t agree on a timesharing plan for their child and a judge has to decide, each can certainly make their case that it’s best for the child if a parenting time division other than 50-50. The law mandates, “To overcome the presumption, a party must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that equal timesharing is not in the best interests of the child.”
The rebuttable presumption that 50-50 time sharing is best for a child can certainly affect whether a parent is able to get court permission to relocate with a child if the co-parent doesn’t agree to it – especially when the relocation involves a significant distance. Under the law, a modification of the time-sharing schedule required when there’s a parental relocation of over 50 miles “may not be permitted if the modification is not in the best interests of the child upon an analysis of the statutorily provided best interest factors.”
This is just one of the new Florida laws taking effect this year that affects divorcing couples and parents. Attempts to adjust family law approaches tend to result with strong feelings and often – although not in this case – considerable conflict among lawmakers. It’s wise to make sure you understand the current law before you seek to make any changes in your marital and/or parental relationship. Getting experienced legal guidance is a good first step.