CHILD CUSTODY, SUPPORT AND TIMESHARING
Florida no longer uses terminology such as “custodial” parent, “visitation”, “primary residential parent”, and “secondary parent”. What used to be the concepts of “custody” and “visitation” are now parental responsibility and time-sharing.
Parental responsibility is the decision-making process parents undergo with regard to major aspects of their child(ren)’s lives such as what schools to attend, who their doctor will be, who their dentist will be, and things of that sort. There are three types of “parental responsibility”. There is “shared parental responsibility” which is the much-preferred form of parental responsibility and it requires both parents to confer and jointly agree upon major decisions for the child(ren). Unfortunately, sometimes parents cannot always agree. Thus, the Florida Statutes and case law provides for shared parental responsibility but with one parent having ultimate responsibility or decision-making authority over certain aspects or issues such as education, medical, or travel issues and decisions. Ultimate decision-making authority is typically granted where one parent is uncooperative and will never agree just for the sake of disagreeing, is obstreperous, exercises poor judgment concerning the child(ren), among other reasons. The third type of parental responsibility is “sole parental responsibility” which is not preferred and is generally not granted. It allows one parent to make all the decisions regarding particular issues (such as education, medical, travel, etc.) for the child(ren) without the need to either consult with the other parent or get the other parent’s approval or agreement. Sole parental responsibility is granted to a parent only in extreme and extraordinary situations such as where the other parent has completely abandoned the child, the other parent cannot due to alcohol or drug abuse reasons engage in cooperative and meaningful conversation with regard to the best interest of the child, and similar circumstances.
With regard to time-sharing, such is the new terminology for what used to be “visitation” and involves the aspect of “custody” which is who the child(ren) is with at a particular time. There are numerous factors in the statute as well as case law for the court to consider in determining both parental responsibility and time-sharing all of which essentially boil down to what the court considers to be in the best interests of the child(ren). The child(ren)’s best interests is the polestar in any child-related determination. Although there is currently no judicially or statutorily sanctioned presumption for equal timesharing, there seems to be a trend in that direction by the courts. Nevertheless, here at Jonathan S. Root, P.A., we are experienced with the judicial trends, the statutory requirements, and in helping you determine what type of timesharing plan and arrangement would be best for you, your former spouse, and most importantly the child(ren).
With regard to child support, Florida law provides that both parents have a legal responsibility and obligation to financially support their child(ren) in accordance with their financial means and income. Generally, child support is determined by Florida’s Child Support Guidelines which is found in Section 61.30, Florida Statutes. However, while the child support guidelines are generally used, they are only technically the “presumptive” amount of child support. A court is allowed after consideration of numerous factors, to “deviate” from the child support guidelines amount. Moreover, case law provides that a child(ren) is entitled to share in that child(ren)’s parent’s “good fortune”. For high income parent’s, such financial ability does not necessarily mean that parent’s income will be used to determine the child support under and pursuant to the guidelines. As one case has indicated, a child’s right to share in his or her parent’s “good fortune” does not mean the child gets to be chauffeured to school every day in a limousine.
Child support encompasses many different things and is not just the “basic monthly child support” amount that is paid by one parent to the other parent typically each month. It also includes the cost for health insurance premiums, child care costs (under certain circumstances pursuant to the statute and case law), deductibles, co-pays and uncovered medical, dental, orthodontic, etc., expenses for the child(ren), sometimes private school tuition and costs, sometimes travel expenses if the parties, for example, live in different states, sometimes tutoring expenses, etc.
Moreover, pursuant to the child support guidelines, there is an adjustment to be made in the amount owing each month for the amount of timesharing the payor parent has with the minor child(ren). The concept and reasoning for such is salient. For example, a parent having the child(ren) sixty percent of the time would incur less expense generally for the child(ren) than a parent having the child(ren) eighty percent of the time. Conversely, a parent having the child(ren) forty percent of the time would pay more for and on account of the child(ren)’s living expenses than a parent having the child(ren) only twenty percent of the time. Child support guidelines make adjustments for such situations and considerations.
While the general consensus might be that the child support guidelines renders the issue of the determination of child support a simple task, it is not always such based on the various and myriad of factors that go into the equation including, but not limited to, the actual determination of each parties respective incomes which can be complicated and complex at times. Sometimes a need for an expert such as a certified public accountant will be required in order to determine a party’s actual income for purposes of child support guideline calculations.