Monday, June 30, 2008

Changes in Florida's custody law: No more primary residential parent and more

There are big changes coming just around the bend for those who are getting divorced. Under current Florida law, one parent is designated the “primary residential parent”. The primary residence is where the child will live most of the time. The other parent spends time with the children also pays child support according to Florida guidelines. As of October 1, this will change drastically. A new law will go into effect doing away with both the concept of custody as well as the primary parent designation.

What does this mean for parents and children? For the latter, it means more time with each parent. The “standard time sharing”, defined as every other weekend and one night per week with the non-residential parent, is not longer standard or automatic.
While the new law does not expressly create a presumption for joint and rotating custody and does not state that joint custody will be awarded in every situation, it makes it easier, and more likely, for judges to award equal time to each parent. Although this law will not take effect until October 1, judges are already beginning to look at custody, or time sharing, differently.

The new law will also affect child support. Currently, Florida law provides guidelines for the amount of child support to be paid by the non-residential parent. However, when both parents spend an equal amount of overnights with the children, or the paying parent spends at least 40% of the overnights with the children, child support is substantially decreased. In some cases, where parents earn similar incomes, child support can be minimal or nothing.

The new law will also require parents to prepare a detailed parenting plan to be approved and enforced by the court. A parenting plan is a written agreement which spells out time sharing, decision making and communication between parents. This law is designed to provide parents with a written document which sets out the details of their spending time with and handling decision making concerning their children. The goal is to eliminate spending time and money on the numerous child-related issues which arise during divorce. Parenting plans can also resolve by agreement even the relatively minor (from the court’s standpoint) issues such as who will pick up children from soccer practice and who will pay for camp clothing and piano lessons.

It is hard to say with certainty what impact the new law will have on parents and divorce. But it is important to be aware of these changes as they will affect current and future divorces. Anyone currently going through a divorce, or who believes it is a possibility in the future, should seek advice as to this new law and how it will affect the most important aspect of their lives- their relationship with their children.


Anonymous said...

As a loving father of a baeutiful daughter and a husband that does't want to divorce I think this is awesome!!!!

Anonymous said...

As a spouse who did not want to get divorced, did everything possible to preserve the marriage and as a parent who is adored by the kids, this is good news.
As a mental health professional in the field of High Conflict Divorce and Parental Alienation, it is about time the legislature took interest in the true benefit of the children.
It was useless for a parent to attempt to have a healthy relationship with the kids, when the more adversarial parent and the legal system did not contribute to that function.
This new law is the first step toward restoring a balance into the emotional state of the kids of divorce, ensuring a better future for them and investing in a healthier and safer society.
With this new law, the real winners are the children!
Dr. Carlos R. Ph.D.

Anonymous said...

IT is about time. I am a great father and I refuse to just be a visitor in my childs life. I have spent thousands of dollars with attorneys and other legal ways to be apart of my childs life. I hate to say it, but until I saw this post, I thought the system had let me down. Its about time the system took anitiative. No more hiding behind the kids custodial parents.

Anonymous said...

I think we are jumping the gun here. I've done some research and this "change in the law" is just a change in terminology to say the least. If you do some research through some law firms in FL, the terminology is changing to eliminate the feeling of being the lesser parent. My point is... (as one FL 'pro dad' attorney phrased it).. "A skunk is a skunk is a skunk...It still stinks!" So changing the terminology is just a way to say 'shut up' for now? Just a thought. I do feel bad for the father that really do care, please don't misunderstand me. But I come from an abusive, drunk of a husband who does NOT have my sons best interest at heart. So for those "TRUE LOVING DADS".... fight to be with your children. And the little time you do have... DON'T BAD MOUTH THE MOTHERS, trust me.... you'll be the bad guy in the end!