Absolutely. In Florida, we refer to child custody as “time-sharing arrangements” and the determination of parental responsibilities. Instead of a child custody order, we have a parenting plan. That said, the question is of real concern to many Florida fathers.

Many dads have heard that parenting plans favor the mother. It’s true that there is sometimes bias against fathers when it comes to spending time with their kids. However, Florida law does not favor one parent over the other in any official way. Instead, it focuses on what is in the children’s best interests. Moreover, the courts generally believe that a child’s best interest is served when both parents have the opportunity for a strong parent-child relationship.

When determining a child’s best interest, Florida courts look at a variety of factors, such as:

  • The school and home history of the child
  • The parents’ mental, physical and moral status
  • How permanent the proposed home would be
  • Continuity in the child’s situation
  • Each parent’s ability to provide financially for the child
  • The love, affection and existing ties between parent and child
  • The presence of domestic violence, if any
  • Whether each parent will cooperate with and encourage contact by the other parent
  • Whether the parent will be reasonable and accommodating of any necessary changes
  • Whether the parent will honor the time-sharing schedule
  • How involved each parent is in the child’s life
  • The ability of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs
  • How the parental responsibilities will be divided up, including whether any will be performed by a third party (such as a nanny)

Your lawyer’s job is to show the court that you will provide a favorable home environment by your children. Many of the factors above are within your power to control, and you should focus on how you will cooperate appropriately with the other parent and focus on the children’s needs. If, for any reason, you believe that the other parent will not cooperate with the time-sharing arrangements, you should share your concerns with your lawyer.

What will happen next?

The courts have wide discretion on what parenting plans to order. That matters if you are going to take your case to trial. However, you may instead wish to negotiate a time-sharing agreement with your children’s other parent.

If you do go to trial, you may end up with any of a variety of arrangements. You and the other parent may share parental responsibilities, meaning that you each have the right to make crucial decisions about the children’s care, schooling, religion and the like. Or, the court may assign those responsibilities to only one parent, even if each parent will have time with the children. The division of your parenting time may be approximately equal or weighted toward one parent.

In situations where there has been child abuse or another reason to oppose one parent’s time sharing, the court could impose conditions on the time spent with the children. For example, the court could order that the parent’s time be supervised. Or, the court could deny any parenting time or responsibility to the problematic parent.

If you are a dad who wants substantial parental responsibility and time with your children, sit down with an experienced attorney right away. Your lawyer can help you make a strong case for your rights.