When is Equal Time Sharing Not Acting in a “Child’s Best Interest?”

Florida HB1301 went into effect in July 2023 and changed how courts view time-sharing arrangements for parents with minor children going through a divorce. The goal was to ensure children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after a divorce. Until this law was passed, Florida courts didn’t favor one type of custody arrangement over the other. Chapter 61.13 of the Florida Statutes now includes a rebuttable presumption that equal time-sharing is in the child’s best interest. This means that courts will order equal time-sharing as the preferred schedule unless one parent can present evidence why 50/50 custody is not in the child’s best interest. Florida courts use specific factors to determine what’s considered to be acting in a child’s best interest. Below, we discuss the situations the court would consider equal time sharing not to be in a child’s best interest, according to Florida law:

Evidence or Danger of Domestic Violence, Abandonment, or Neglect 

Children have the fundamental right to live in a stable and secure environment free from harm. Any kind of abuse, neglect or abandonment is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. If there is any evidence of such misconduct, it will have a significant impact on the time-sharing schedule. If one parent has reasonable cause to believe that their children are in danger, or if one parent has been convicted of domestic violence, an equal time-sharing arrangement wouldn’t be in the child’s best interest. 

Parental Right Termination 

If a parent has signed a written surrender of parental rights according to Florida Statute 39.806, that parent wouldn’t be eligible for equal time-sharing. Parental right termination is rare and is only considered when a parent’s continued presence threatens the child’s safety, well-being, and physical or mental health. 

Parental Responsibilities Delegated to Third Parties 

You could provide evidence to the court that shows that the other parent’s lifestyle would make a 50/50 time-sharing schedule inappropriate. For instance, a judge may decide that equal time sharing is not suitable for a family where one parent works long hours over long periods, leaving the children with a nanny or babysitter while the other parent is home and able to care for the children. 

Geographic Viability

Various factors are considered when determining a time-sharing schedule, including the feasibility of the proposed schedule. This includes elements such as the travel time between each parent’s home and the age of the children. Schedules that could cause undue stress on a child’s daily routine, such as having school-aged children travel long distances on a school night to visit the other parent, may be determined not to be acting in the child’s best interest. 

Mental and Physical Health

If a parent’s mental or physical health impacts their ability to care for the child adequately, it could affect how much time the children spend with that parent.

Child’s Preferences 

Depending on the child’s age, their personal preferences may be considered when the court decides what is in their best interest. The child must have enough intelligence, experience, and understanding to have their personal preferences considered by the court in time-sharing matters. It also considers the parent’s willingness to engage with the child in their particular interests, such as participating in extracurricular activities and social outings. 

What Happens if Shared Responsibility is Detrimental to a Child? 

HB 1301 places a rebuttable presumption that equal time-sharing is in the child’s best interest. This means that the burden of proof is on the parent arguing against 50/50 time sharing to present evidence that equal time sharing is detrimental to the child. If the court decides that 50/50 time-sharing isn’t in the child’s best interest, the court will determine what type of time-sharing arrangement is appropriate, such as 60/40 or 70/30. In rare cases, the court may decide that sole custody is in the child’s best interest. 

Remsen Family Law Firm Fights for You and Your Family’s Rights

An equal time-sharing arrangement is often the best option for children and parents following a divorce. If you believe you’re in a situation where you need to prove why equal time sharing isn’t in your child’s best interest, you’ll need an experienced divorce attorney like our experienced divorce attorney Frank P. Remsen to help you gather the evidence and make your argument to the court. We’ll listen to the facts of your case and determine what you’ll need to prove to show that equal time-sharing is detrimental to your child. Call us or contact us online to schedule a low-cost consultation.