The divorce process can be stressful, emotional, and exhausting. And for parents with minor children, divorce opens up a whole other challenge—establishing time-sharing arrangements.
In Florida, the state legislature adopted the concept of “time sharing” to replace the former regime of awarding primary and secondary custody.
In order to co-parent successfully, divorced parents must set up a long-term time-sharing schedule that benefits their children, and allows them to grow in two separate nurturing, supportive, and stable environments. Whereas before, the mother was often stereotypically awarded primary custody in child proceedings, the new rules consider a variety of important factors when determining time sharing rights. In doing so, courts seek to ensure the children’s best interests as the focus of time sharing decisions rather than parents’ personal agendas.
After the court determines a time-sharing arrangement, parents must create a “parenting plan”—a document that governs the relationship of parents relating to decisions regarding their kids. The plan must include a description of how parents will share daily tasks associated with raising the children. It should also identify which parent is responsible for important matters such as health care and education issues, and indicate technologies and other methods parents and kids will use to communicate.
In addition, a parenting plan must include a detailed schedule that specifies when the children will spend time with each parent. The time-sharing schedule should include:
A residential schedule. This section should indicate when children will spend time with each parent on regular weekdays and weekends.
A holiday schedule. This part of the time-sharing schedule should show which parent the children will stay with on which holidays.
A summer schedule. This portion should address how time is split between parents when they are off of school for summer vacation.
Things to Consider
Sitting down with your former spouse and developing a time-sharing schedule that you both agree on isn’t always easy. Below, we’ve provided some important tips and considerations for setting up a time-sharing schedule that will be most beneficial to your kids, and favorable to both you and your spouse.
Keep it age appropriate. Your child’s age should be considered when drafting your time-sharing schedule. Experts often recommend shorter, more frequent visits for younger children, and longer, less-frequent visits for older children. As your children age, you should adapt your schedule accordingly.
Make transportation plans. Think about how your children will get to and from scheduled locations—how will they get there, and how long will it take? It’s a good idea to decide on and describe transportation information in your parenting plan.
Keep the kids together. If you have more than one child, it’s a good idea to keep them together during time-sharing arrangements. Having one child stay with mom while the other stays with dad can create feelings of confusion and separateness.
Develop a schedule you are both happy with. If one parent is unhappy with your time-sharing schedule, this will inevitably cause complications down the road. Your goal during the time-sharing discussion should be to agree upon a schedule that you both feel happy with—ideally one that gives your child frequent and continuing contact with both of you.
Bring in a professional. When going through the process of devising a time-sharing schedule, it’s a good idea to consult with an experienced Florida family lawyer. An attorney can act as a third-party mediator, helping you to explore different options and determine the best decisions for your children and unique family situation.