Dealing With Timesharing Issues in Long-Distance Situations

A recent child custody battle represents the potential hurdles that can sometimes arise when trial courts attempt creative compromises. The 4th District Court of Appeal recently issued a ruling throwing out a trial court’s modified timesharing plan because the plan was something neither parent had proposed and neither side had any notice was a possible outcome.

A couple, K. and O., lived in Palm Beach County during their marriage and had one child together. After they split, the husband moved to the Florida Keys for work-related reasons. Initially, the child spent three days a week with one parent and four with the other. This timesharing plan had the benefit of giving the parents an approximately 50-50 split in timesharing, but it also presented a problem in that it required the child to travel 400 miles (round-trip) every week back and forth between Lake Worth and Bahia Honda.

The mother eventually returned to court and asked the judge to implement a new timesharing plan that followed the Model Parental Timesharing Schedule, which would place the child primarily with one parent. The secondary parent would have the child every other weekend, while the primary parent would have the child the remainder of the time.

The father asked the court to leave the timesharing plan unchanged. The trial judge attempted to strike out a compromise, ordering that the child rotate between the mother’s home and the father’s home in two-month intervals. Once the child started kindergarten, the father would become the primary residential parent and the child would attend school in the Keys.

The rotating-two-month-intervals part of the plan did not survive on appeal. Florida law prohibits creating an annual rotating timesharing plan, like what the judge ordered in this case, when neither parent asked for such a plan in his or her court documents or argued for that plan in a hearing before the judge. That’s because neither parent had any notice that a “two months with mom, two months with dad” plan was even a possibility, and therefore never had a chance to make a case to the judge for or against the plan, which meant that the modified timesharing plan violated the parents’ right to due process of law.

The mother also contested the part of the order placing the child primarily with the father once the child started kindergarten. Since that was a year away, the mother claimed that this decision was an impermissible prospective relocation. This part of the order remained intact. While Florida does bar orders relocating children at a future date, the placement of the child with the father was not a relocation. Florida law defines relocations as situations when a parent is changing addresses. Here, the court placed the child with the father in Bahia Honda, where the father already lived, once school started. Since it was not a relocation order, it was permissible.

Child custody cases can require a great deal of cooperation, especially in cases where the parents are separated by many miles. In these cases, it is also very important to have a zealous and experienced advocate on your side to ensure that you can remain an active part of your children’s lives by maximizing your time with them. For skilled representation and thoughtful solutions for your child custody issues, talk to the South Florida family law attorneys of Sandy T. Fox, P.A.

Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Establishing Time-Sharing and Parenting Plans for Children With Special Needs, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, July 14, 2014
Florida Appeals Court Nixes Father’s Relocation of Children to New Jersey, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, April 14, 2014