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Fort Lauderdale Family Law: How Do Courts Determine Timesharing & Child Custody in Florida Divorce Cases?

In a typical Florida divorce case, parents will argue before the court why they are suited to have certain periods of timesharing or custody of minor children. Sometimes, the parents are in agreement; other times, each argues for more time or custody than the other should receive.

Yet, assuming their arguments are based in fact - not trumped up fiction or denigration of the other parent, the courts use a fairly standard matrix to weigh the merits and render a decision.

Florida law historical has been fairly specific on what's elements guide such a determination. That faced changes as the Florida Legislature weighed - along with changes in lifetime alimony - the establishment of a presumption that 50/50 timesharing was in the best interests of the child. As with the alimony argument, many family law attorneys and courts prefer such discretion is left to family court judges, and not legislators.

Yet, regarding child timesharing, under Florida Statutes, the determining factors are clearly outlined. Courts also turn to their own discretion as well as statutes to determine which parent may be best suited for primary timesharing. Issues can include the child's age, the mental or physical health of the child or parents, the current living situation, financial stability, school or educational needs, the general safety or security of the home environment and whether domestic violence is or has been an issue, religious preferences, and the depth or quality of a child's relationship with each parent.

One of the biggest factors courts weigh is the general congeniality and respect of one parent to the other. For example, is one parent interrupting or influencing phone calls, or hovering around the child when the other parent arrives for schedule visitation? Further, if one parent discourages a warm relationship between the child and the other parent, or if a parent attempts to interfere with or create animosity from the child toward the other parent, the courts weigh heavily any and all such attempts at harmful influence.

In such cases where one parent may treat the child as property to be negotiated with or argued over, the courts also take such actions into consideration. Courts aren't watching one parent or the other; they want to see that both parents work to keep disputes between themselves - and not the children.

Regardless of whether a family is going through separation and divorce, the best practice is to shield the children from emotional harm. Arguments, if there are any, should be delayed until the children are not present. And if child timesharing becomes a point of contention, always keep the needs of the children - not those of the parents - central to the mission to arrive at an amicable solution.

The Law Office of Barry I. Finkel P.A., handles complex divorce litigation for a variety of clients, including high net worth individuals. As a divorce and family law firm, the practice serves the needs of the entire family. Established in Fort Lauderdale / Broward County, Florida, in 1992, and now in Boca Raton, the firm's lawyers provide trusted matrimonial counsel to clients facing turbulent times and unsettling circumstances. For a consultation or to schedule an appointment, please call 954-776-1414.

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