A new bill in the Florida Senate could drastically change the way time-sharing is organized for divorced parents.
The bill is entitled SB 250, filed by Florida State Senator Tom Lee, and seeks to change custody and alimony laws in the state. The bill will be considered during the 2016 Senate session.
The 41-page proposal contains a number of provisions that address the way judges assign alimony payments. For example, it would require judges to “make specific written findings of fact regarding the relevant factors that justify an award of alimony.”
Judges will also be required to exclude “earnings or gains on retirement accounts” from calculations of ex-spouses’ incomes. If one spouse is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, alimony would be calculated on the amount of money he or she could be making otherwise.
If the bill passes, it will have a dramatic impact on child time sharing scheduling. Under the new law, a child would be required to spend equal amounts of time with both parents—a 50/50 split. The bill states that equal time with both parents represents a child’s best interests. But is this true for all kids?
Critics: New Laws Would Harm Children, Mothers
The bill isn’t without detractors. The Florida Breastfeeding Coalition criticized it, asserting that the new laws would dramatically damage the early stages of many children’s development.
Their concern is for infants and mothers involved in a divorce. They argue that equal time sharing would prevent mothers from breastfeeding on a regular basis during infanthood, which in turn would rob the child of the medical benefits of breastfeeding as a baby.
In an op-ed in the Palm Beach Post, spokesperson Jessica M. Gordon outlined the Coalition’s position.
“The FBC supports the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations of exclusive breastfeeding for infants up to six months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced for one year or longer. Compliance with a legislated 50/50 time-sharing premise compromises a mother’s ability to meet such vital recommendations.”
Florida’s Current Time Sharing Laws
Florida law currently acknowledges that a relationship with both parents is in the best interests of child, but doesn’t legally enforce any ratio for the time-sharing schedule.
In general, Florida has moved away from official use of the word “custody,” replacing it with “time sharing.” Time sharing refers to the legal guardian status, residency, and caretaking responsibilities. It is often adjusted to account for real-life logistics. For example, if one parent lives near a child’s school, it would be easier for the child to spend the majority of his or her time with that parent.
Ideally, a time-sharing schedule should be fluid, adapting to the needs of a child. In family courts, the best interests of the child are paramount when ruling on custody matters. Judges will consider factors like the location of both parents’ homes, the education of the child, and developmental factors—like the importance of breast feeding.
It remains to be seen if the bill will survive next year’s Senate session. If it passes, it will dramatically change the time sharing of many divorced couples.
If you are a parent considering a divorce, or you are currently in the early stages of a divorce, you should consult with an experienced and knowledgeable family law firm. We offer legal advice and representation, with a strong focus on your rights and the best interests of your child.