Has Custody Been Abolished in Florida?

Alan R. Burton Attorney at Law

Recent legislation in Florida has changed the way we now provide for minor children in a divorce case. The manner we have previously been accustomed with in dealing with the issue of custody has in fact been abolished in Florida.

The new parenting and time sharing provisions of Florida law are found in Chapter 61.13. All of the old nomenclature and terminology regarding “custody” of minor children has been abolished. The reason for this is really quite logical. Emotions run high in a divorce case, and the minor children are generally the focal point of the dissolution of marriage proceedings. If one parent felt that they could come out of the litigation with the title of “custodian”, it was often times viewed as some type of victory. This resulted in unnecessary litigation, expense, and emotional toll upon the parties, as well as the children.

The new legislation removes the issue of “custody” from the battleground. There is no longer a need for the mother or father to fight over obtaining the prize for becoming the “custodian” of the minor children. Now both parents simply enter into a Time Sharing Plan, whereby certain days of the week, as well as various responsibilities of each parent, are spelled out in a written contract or plan.

A Parenting Plan can be very detailed and elaborate as the particular situation dictates, or it can be very general. It is up to the parents to create their own plan, based upon their individual and unique circumstances. However, a Parenting Plan, in order to be approved by the Court, must, at a minimum, contain certain provisions. A Plan must describe in detail how the parents will share and be responsible for the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the child; the time-sharing schedule arrangements that specify the time that the minor child will spend with each parent; a designation of who will be responsible for any and all forms of health care, school-related matters including the address to be used for school-boundary determination and registration, and other activities; and the methods and technologies that the parents will use to communicate with the child.

It is the public policy of the state of Florida that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or once the marriage of the parties is dissolved. By abolishing the old manner of dealing with minor children and doing away with the “custody” determination , the process should become a less costly one for the parties, both on a financial as well as on an emotional level.

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