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What the Law Does (and Does Not) Allow Courts to Do in Florida Child Custody and Timesharing Disputes

Most divorced parents genuinely desire to provide the best they possibly can for their children. The problem that arises in many situations is that the parents disagree on which arrangements would be best for the children. These disagreements can sometimes lead to litigation. When it does, it is important to know what a court can, and cannot, do in terms of creating an order of custody and timesharing. It is also important to make sure that you have representation from a knowledgeable Florida child custody attorney to help you protect your relationship with your children.

The custody case between ex-spouses Elisia and Kenneth was an example of the limits of what the court can do. The two were the divorced parents of one child, who was not yet of kindergarten age. The mother lived in Pensacola, while the father lived roughly 50 miles to the west in Mobile, Ala. While the parents were going through the divorce process, they had equal timesharing. They met once a week halfway between Mobile and Pensacola to exchange the child. The child actually attended two different preschools – one in each city – due to this arrangement.

Of course, this arrangement would not be workable once the child reached kindergarten age. In court, each parent argued for receiving majority timesharing. Specifically, each parent argued that the child, once kindergarten started, should live with him or her during the school year and attend school in his or her hometown. The father’s proposal called for continuing the alternating weeks plan for the next 20 months until the child started kindergarten in Mobile. The trial judge ordered that the couple’s parenting plan would match the father’s proposal in totality.

The mother appealed, and she won. The reason that the mother was able to get the order overturned came back to the limitations on what the courts are allowed to do. The trial court’s order would have dictated that the child relocate 20 months in the future to start living predominantly with the father in Alabama.

Florida law prohibits courts from making prospective or “future-looking” types of analysis when it comes to whether or not a relocation is in the best interest of a child. When a judge makes a decision about the best interest of a child, relocation, and a proper parenting plan, the correct method of analysis is to base the plan on the best interest of the child at the time of the hearing. In other words, a custody arrangement and timesharing plan order cannot include references to future events because, by the time that the stated future events transpire, the child’s best interest may have changed, and these differences could dictate a different result regarding the proper parenting plan. Elisia’s success did not mean that the father necessarily lacked proof that it was in the child’s best interest to attend kindergarten in Mobile; it instead indicated that the law did not allow the court to make such a determination yet, and it must wait to do so.

If you are in a custody dispute, it is important to have experienced legal counsel to help you protect your time with your child. Skilled Miami child custody attorney Sara Saba has been providing reliable advice and strong advocacy for her child custody and other family law clients for more than 13 years. Our team is dedicated to meeting your family law needs. Contact us online or by calling (305) 450-8009 to schedule your consultation. Hablamos Español.

More blog posts:

My Ex Wants to Move Far Away from Florida with Our Child. What Can I Do?, Miami Divorce Lawyer Blog, April 27, 2018

High-Earning Celebrities Blake Griffin, Britney Spears Both Find Themselves in Child Support Disputes, Miami Divorce Lawyer Blog, March 23, 2018