Will the Florida Legislature pass 50/50 time-sharing/visitation? Many individuals (including a number of experienced family law attorneys) erroneously believe that Florida law provides for 50/50 timesharing/visitation of a divorcing couple's children. That belief is not correct. Currently, Florida Statute 61.13 provides that the trial court may award 50/50 timesharing to a divorcing couple, if the trial judge finds that such a timesharing/visitation schedule is in the minor child's best interest. Many family court judges in Florida start with this presumption. However, it is not required by statute. At the same time, many other family law judges do not.
The Florida Legislature currently is considering amending Florida Statute 61.13 to state that "equal timesharing with a minor child by both parents is in the best interests of the child.” This is a transformation of Florida law.
The proposed new statute indicates that the only exceptions to a presumption of 50/50 timesharing would be (a) that the safety, well-being or physical or mental or emotional health of a child would be endangered by child abuse and neglect or abandonment by the parents or in some other fashion, therefore supervised visitation is appropriate (if any visitation is appropriate); (b) clear and convincing evidence of extenuating circumstances justify departure from equal timesharing and a court makes written findings justifying the departure from equal timesharing; (c) the parent is incarcerated; (d) the distance between parental residences make equal timesharing impractical; (e) a parent does not request at least fifty (50) percent timesharing. (f) a permanent injunction against domestic violence is warranted; and (g) domestic violence as defined by Florida statute has occurred.
A 50/50 presumption has been passed by Florida Legislature in two of the last three years. Each time the Legislative change has been vetoed by Governor Rick Scott (now Senator Rick Scott in Washington). Florida has a new conservative governor, Ron DeSantis, it is uncertain how he will react to this type of legislative change (if passed by the Florida Legislature). However, if it does pass the statute will be effective as of July 1, 2019.
There are arguments that can be made against 50/50 parental timesharing. Currently, under the Florida statute, the individual proposing 50/50 timesharing/visitation must prove to the court that it is in the best interests of the minor child and that the best interests of minor child will be served by the court awarding such a visitation/timesharing scheduled. However, under the current statute that burden of proof is reversed. Consequently, any primary residential parent who believes it is not in the best interests of their child to have 50/50 timesharing with the other parent, may find himself hard pressed to overcome this presumption or be able to muster the sufficient financial and/or emotional assets to oppose and establish to the court that their contact/timesharing schedule is in the best interests of the minor child.
The effective date of this statute would be, July 1, 2019 which is rapidly approaching. Individuals who believe that the proposed changes and presumption of 50/50 timesharing/visitation will not be in the best interests of their children, should immediately seek out the advice of an experienced Florida Board Certified Marital and Family Law attorney. They should also consider bringing a petition for Timesharing/visitation to protect their children's best interests without having to overcome the presumptive 50/50 timesharing which the Florida Legislature is considering.