Court Explains Timesharing Decisions in Florida Custody Cases

It is not uncommon for parents who share custody of a child to disagree over where the child should live or whether one parent should be able to move to another state with the child. In such instances, the parties will typically seek input from the courts to determine their parental rights. If a party relocates with a child without the court’s permission, they will likely face adverse consequences, as demonstrated in a recent Florida case. If you need help with a custody dispute, it is smart to consult a Miami child custody attorney to discuss your rights.

Case Background

It is alleged that the mother and the father were in a long-term relationship but never married. They resided together in Hawaii, where their daughter was born. However, in 2017, the mother relocated with their daughter to Key West without objection from the father. After settling in Key West, the parties agreed to a rotating custody arrangement for their daughter. In 2021, the father also moved to Key West and filed a petition to establish paternity, seeking timesharing and child support. The mother responded with a counterpetition, seeking similar remedies.

Reportedly, the court ratified a temporary order granting timesharing rights on an alternating weekly basis. Within two months, however, the father filed a petition to relocate with their daughter back to Hawaii. The mother objected, and the court scheduled the remaining issues in the case for trial, including the relocation petition. The father then relocated back to Hawaii before the court rendered a ruling on the relocation petition. The trial court then denied the petition for relocation while simultaneously adopting the father’s proposed parenting plan, granting him extended timesharing with their daughter during school recesses in Hawaii and additional timesharing in Key West. These conflicting decisions prompted the subsequent appeal.

Timesharing Decisions in Custody Cases

On appeal, the court reversed the trial court’s ruling to the extent it granted long-distance timesharing rights. The court first addressed the principles guiding timesharing decisions, emphasizing the paramount consideration of the child’s best interests. It then discussed the parental relocation statute, noting it places no presumption in favor of or against relocation but requires the relocating parent to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that relocation is in the child’s best interests. If the relocating parent meets this burden, the burden then shifts to the non-relocating parent to demonstrate otherwise.

The court then clarified that Florida case law indicates that the relocation statute does not allow for modifying timesharing if relocation is denied. In the subject case, though, the parents were not bound by a permanent parenting plan but a temporary timesharing arrangement, freeing the trial court from the constraints of the relocation statute. The court then examined the factual findings supporting the denial of relocation, which were extensive and weighed heavily against relocation.

Nevertheless, the court found that the parenting plan lacked a determination as to whether the proposed timesharing schedule served the child’s best interests, creating an incongruity between the denial of relocation and the granting of long-distance timesharing.

Consequently, the court reversed the portion of the parenting plan awarding long-distance timesharing in Hawaii and remanded the case for further proceedings to determine the best interests of the child regarding the timesharing schedule.

Talk to a Dedicated Miami Attorney

Parents who share custody of a child often cannot relocate absent permission from the courts,  and if they do, it could result in a contentious child custody dispute. If you have questions about what steps you can take to safeguard your parental rights, it is smart to talk to an attorney.  The assertive Miami child custody lawyers of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. can assess your case and advise you of your options for seeking a favorable outcome. You can contact us at 800-596-0579 or use the form online to arrange a meeting.