Basic Child Visitation Rights in Florida Laws

By Mary Jane Freeman

During the divorce, the court will allocate custody and visitation rights between you and your spouse. However, Florida no longer uses those terms. Instead, it describes the time parents spend with their children as time-sharing. For unmarried parents, these rights can be established by opening a custody case.

Time-Sharing and Decision-Making

Custody in Florida is described in terms of time-sharing and decision-making responsibility. Decision-making, sometimes called parental responsibility, represents a parent's right to make important decisions about a child's upbringing, such as school and religion. in other states, this is known as legal custody, and in Florida, one or both parents can hold this responsibility. Time-sharing represents the time a parent spends with the child, including overnight stays. If a child resides with one parent most of the time, that parent has majority time-sharing; if both parents spend relatively equal time with the child, they have equal time-sharing.

Based on the Child's Best Interests

When the court decides how much time-sharing you will have, it will base that decision on your child's best interests. To make this determination, the court will look at several factors, including each parent's moral fitness, physical and mental health, ability to provide a stable routine for the child and meet the developmental needs of the child; how long the child has lived in a stable environment and the importance of maintaining that continuity; likelihood of each parent to permit the other parent to have contact with the child and not interfere in the relationship; and whether there is any history of domestic violence. Once the court has evaluated these factors, it will create a parenting plan allocating time-sharing responsibilities between the parents and incorporate the terms into the divorce decree.

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Time-Sharing by Parental Agreement

Florida law allows parents to create their own parenting plans rather than leave it up to the court to allocate decision-making and time-sharing responsibilities for them. This means you and your spouse are free to create a parenting plan in which you decide the arrangement that best fits the dynamic of your family. The plan should detail such things as the time-sharing schedule, including holidays, vacations and special occasions, transportation routine, communication between children and parents, how decisions will be made and disagreements handled, and parental responsibility for healthcare, daily tasks, extracurricular activities and school functions. Once complete, you would submit the plan to the court for review. If the terms are satisfactory and don't contradict your child's best interests, the court will approve the plan and include it in your divorce decree.

Modifying Time-Sharing Arrangement

Once the divorce is finalized, the time-sharing rights you are entitled to will be detailed in the time-sharing order outlined in the divorce decree. If your ex-spouse doesn't abide by this order, you may return to court to have the order enforced. You also have the right to modify your existing order if circumstances have substantially and materially changed since the order was established and modification would be in your child's best interests. For example, if your ex-spouse was awarded majority time-sharing, but has since become a drug addict, a substantial and material change has occurred and it is in your child's best interests to be removed from this environment.

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Florida Child Custody Guidelines


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Florida Family Law Statutes on Visitation

In an effort to reduce the stigma associated with being the parent with less parent-child contact, Florida has replaced the terms "custody" and "visitation" with "time-sharing." It is now a priority of the state legislature to encourage parties to work together to create a parenting plan that both fits each parent's schedule and supports the best interests of the child. Once that plan is in place, the court provides specific remedies to ensure that both parties honor the arrangement.

What Are Parental Rights in a Divorce?

Parental rights can change drastically during divorce proceedings. Before the court issues a custody order, you and your spouse maintain equal rights to care for your child on a daily basis and make major decisions regarding your child's health and welfare. Once a judge issues a temporary or permanent child custody order in a divorce, the court order establishes each parent's parental rights and responsibilities. These rights traditionally include legal custody and physical custody of a child.

Child Custody Law in Utah

Utah places a strong emphasis on both parents having meaningful contact with their children following a divorce. To that end, the law sets a minimum visitation requirement as part of most custody arrangements. Agreements between parents are encouraged and will be supported by the court so long as they promote the child's best interests. Utah courts retain the authority to modify an existing order if conditions change and may find a parent in contempt if an order is not followed.

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