When going to court for a determination of timesharing, it is important to understand what the judge can and cannot do. Florida’s law regarding the establishment of a timesharing plan for a divorcing couple’s children is based upon a public policy that strongly favors giving a child “frequent and continuing contact” with each parent unless evidence exists showing that this contact poses a risk of harm to the welfare of the child. Absent this danger to the welfare of the child, courts cannot cut off one parent. This rule is what led the 4th District Court of Appeal to reject a recent timesharing plan created by a Broward County trial court.
The case involved the child of R.L. and E.D. R.L. (the mother) filed for divorce and sought primary physical custody of the couple’s only child. The mother requested that the father receive only supervised visits with the child, claiming a concern about emotional and physical abuse by the father. At a hearing on timesharing, the mother told a trial court magistrate judge that the father had not been in Florida in more than a half-decade and knew nothing about the child’s education, activities or medical condition. The father did not show up for that hearing.
The magistrate judge awarded the mother 100% timesharing of the child. The magistrate judge’s recommendation concluded that the father did not know the child and the child did not know who the father was, so it would be inappropriate for the father to have any timesharing. The trial judge approved the magistrate’s recommendation.
The 4th DCA rejected this plan. The appeals court pointed out that the Florida Legislature established that the public policy of the state favored “frequent and continuing contact with both parents” after divorce. Florida law has long held that, unless a parent poses a danger to the “morals or welfare” of a child, courts should never deny a parent visitation with his or her child. The simple facts that the father had been gone from Florida for years and that he and his child allegedly did not have an existing relationship with each other was not enough to prove that giving the father time with the child would injure the welfare of the child.
Another thing the trial court did wrong was not giving the father an avenue for gaining time with his child. Florida law requires that when a court cuts off a parent, it also give that parent “the key to reconnecting with his or her child.” In the present case, the trial court created a “catch-22.” The court stated that the father could not have timesharing because he did not know the child but, by denying the father timesharing, the court guaranteed that the father could never form a relationship with his child. This was improper based on the evidence before the trial court, the appeals court ruled.
For divorcing parents, the custody of their children is often the most important issue they must resolve. For the finest in advice and representation in your custody and timesharing case, consult the South Florida family law attorneys of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our attorneys can help you work to reach an outcome that complies with the law and meets the needs of your family.
Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Florida Appeals Court Nixes Father’s Relocation of Children to New Jersey, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, April 14, 2014
Florida Supreme Court Upholds Same-Sex Partner’s Right to Co-Parent Child After Couple Splits, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Nov. 6, 2013