What are the custody laws in Florida?

If you have an action in Court involving a minor child, you will need a parenting plan implemented before the Court can close the case. This is the most important document because it covers the timesharing schedule with your kids and resolves any issues related to your case.

In Florida, custody is called timesharing.

A timesharing schedule is a “timetable that . . . specifies the time, including overnights and holidays, that a minor child will spend with each parent.” See Florida Statute §61.046(23). This schedule must be included in the Parenting Plan.

Even if agreed to by the parents, the schedule must still be approved by the Court. The Court will establish the time-sharing schedule if the parents cannot agree to a schedule. See Florida Statute §61.046(23)(b).

Do Courts give preference to one parent over the other?

No. There is no presumption in favor of the father or mother when creating a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule. See Florida Statute §61.13.

Nowadays, both parents typically work full-time. Parents also now equally partake in responsibility for the care of their child. Courts are favoring a closer-to-equal or even equal timesharing schedule.

Best Interest of the Minor Child

The best interests of the child are the primary consideration in determining parental responsibility and creating a parenting plan, including a time-sharing schedule. See Florida Statute §61.13(2)(c). In determining a child’s best interests, a trial court must consider the current, not the prospective, interests of the child.

    • (a) The demonstrated capacity of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
    • (b) The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
    • (c) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.
    • (d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
    • (e) The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against the relocation of either parent with a child.
    • (f) The moral fitness of the parents.
    • (g) The mental and physical health of the parents.
    • (h) The home, school, and community record of the child.
    • (i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
    • (j) The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child. This includes the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.
    • (k) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
    • (l) The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.
    • (m) Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought.
    • (n) Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or neglect.
    • (o) The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending litigation. This includes the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties.
    • (p) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
    • (q) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
    • (r) The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.
    • (s) The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.
    • (t) Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time sharing schedule.

Can you modify the timesharing schedule?

Yes. You can modify a timesharing schedule. To modify the timesharing schedule, you must show: 1) a substantial change in circumstances since the date of the original order; and 2) that said modification is in the best interest of the child. Click on the following link for more information on modifying timesharing schedules: Changing your Visitation Schedule in Florida

Tips for avoiding a Custody Trial

Custody trials are complicated and costly. They can also negatively affect your children. With that said, below are some possible alternatives to avoid a complex custody trial:

  • Carefully consider what type of arrangement is best for your child and what feels natural to you.
  • Keep in mind that your child must spend time with both parents.
  • Remember that being a good partner and a good parent are two different things.  You may dislike your partner for some valid reasons, but it does not imply that he/she is a bad parent.
  • Concentrate on sharing time rather focusing on legal terms like  “custody,” “visitation,” “residential parent,” and “custodial parent”.
  • Do not pressure your children into making the schedule for you. It’s almost always a bad idea to involve your children into legal issues.
  • Consider the lifestyle and schedule of each parent and consider how the children can fit to their schedule. For example, one parent may have a 9-5 job that does not allow them to pick up the kids afternoon; a parent may also work a night shift, making it difficult to helps kids with their homework and put them to bed. Every family is different. It’s important to focus on what works best for yours.
  • Each parent should agree that both of their participation in their child’s life is important.
  • Time-sharing agreement is not about who gets the most time with the child. A good timesharing schedule focuses on what works best for your children and their lifestyle
  • If you are unable to reach a custody agreement, you should consult with a mediator. Mediation will give you and the other parent the power to enter an agreement as to how you will divide your time with the kids. A judge will have to decide a timesharing schedule if you cannot come to an agreement.


The legal process can get difficult, which is why we always recommend that you seek the assistance of counsel; or at least have a consultation. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.

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