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Custody is the term used to describe who makes healthcare, education and religious decisions for a minor child and when the minor child spends time with each parent.  The State of Florida does not use the term custody.  In its place, are the terms parental responsibility and timesharing.
 The notion of timesharing and comprehensive parenting plans have replaced what individuals used to think of as child custody and child visitation.  The court now seeks to fashion, without labels, how time is shared between parents and children, and what each parent’s prospective responsibilities are.  It is wise to work with a skilled child timesharing attorney through your divorce proceeding to ensure your questions are answered.  The Fort Lauderdale timesharing attorneys at Fixel Neave, P.A., have guided numerous clients through the process of divorce.  We understand the serious impact that each decision can potentially have, and we make every attempt to blend your needs with your children’s best interests.

What is parental responsibility?

The State of Florida presumes that both parents are fit and able to make decisions for the minor children which means the parents would share parental responsibility for the minor children.  With shared parental responsibility, the parents jointly discuss and make decisions for their children regarding all medical, dental, orthodontic, therapeutic, education, and extra-curricular activity issues.  Generally, most parents are able to agree upon what they think is best for their children. 

Sometimes, however, parents are unable to agree upon what is in the children’s best interests and they might agree that one parent has decision making authority over certain issues or the court may determine one parent has decision making authority to avoid additional court intervention.  In this case, the parents would enjoy shared parental responsibility with one parent having decision making authority over medical issues or medical and educational issues.

If a parent is designated as having decision making authority over certain issues, that parent is still required to confer and discuss with the other parent his or her requests and ideas.  It is not a blank check to simply veto the other parent’s input.

 At times, sole parental responsibility is awarded to a parent.  This is very unusual and only happens when one parent is incapable of assisting in the decision-making process and his or her absence from the process is detrimental for the minor children.  For example, if one parent has substance abuse issues and frequently disappears or is unable to remain in communication with the other parent, the other parent may be awarded sole parental responsibility to allow him or her to enroll children in school without requiring the consent of both parents.

What is a timesharing schedule?

The timesharing schedule determines when the children will spend time with each parent during the week, on weekends, for holidays and vacations.  The timesharing schedule is usually included in a document called a parenting plan.  The parenting plan enumerates all “custodial” issues.  For example, the parenting plan will detail what type of parental responsibility each parent will enjoy with the children, what days during the week the children will spend with each parent, and where the children will go during holidays and vacations.

The timesharing schedule is broken down into several parts.  It first states which days during the week the children spend with each parent.  For example, the children might spend Mondays and Tuesdays with Mom and Wednesdays and Thursdays with Dad.  It then states where the children spend weekends.  For example, the parents may alternate weekends from Friday after school to Monday drop-off at school.  This is an example of a 50/50 timesharing or an equal timesharing schedule.  Thereafter, holidays such as Easter, Passover, Hanukkah, Christmas, Halloween, 4th of July, Labor Day, Memorial Day and other special holidays unique to the family are designated. Some families elect to split the holidays equally by alternating them each year or by sharing them each year.  Other families designate some holidays and not others, leaving that holiday to the parent with timesharing on that day.  For example, if your family celebrates Jewish holidays, you will designate when the children spend time with each parent for Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Hanukkah, Passover and other religious holidays while days such as Easter will be left as undesignated and the children will remain with the parent who is entitled to time on that day.  Lastly, the timesharing schedule determines where children will spend time on school breaks such as Spring Break, Summer Vacation and Winter Break.

My spouse cannot take the children for equal timesharing because of work responsibilities.  Can I get more time with my children?

In most divorces, the parents determine what schedule would be best for the family, which is then written in the parenting plan and signed by both parents.  If your spouse travels for work and is incapable of taking the children every other weekend, then you will work with your attorney to help fashion a timesharing schedule that will maximize the children’s time with each parent taking into consideration time constraints.  Other parents such as firefighters and nurses have very specific schedules that require accommodation.  The divorce attorneys at Fixel Neave, P.A., have helped many families create timesharing schedules to fit their unique needs.

My spouse is asking for equal timesharing but I know he is only doing that to reduce his child support obligations.  How do I get around this?

A common complaint during the divorce process is one in which during the marriage one spouse spent more time taking care of the children and the other spouse spent more time at work.  This division of labor is natural and common.  After the divorce process is initiated, the parent who spent more time working during the marriage is not going to be penalized for that by receiving less time with the children post-divorce.  The court will give both parents the opportunity to spend as much time with the children as is possible.  Conversely, if a parent insists on a timesharing schedule to reduce his or her child support obligations and then after the divorce is concluded does not exercise the timesharing, a modification can be sought and applied retroactively to the date the timesharing stopped.

My spouse should have supervised visits with my children because of her many issues.  How can I accomplish this?

If the court deems that one parent is a danger to a child due to alcohol problems, drug problems, criminal record, history of domestic violence or other mental health issues, a supervised, safety-focused parenting plan with restricted timesharing, supervised timesharing or no timesharing can be developed and implemented.  Florida’s current statute does not presume a 50-50 split in parenting time. 

If you have further questions regarding family law, child custody, and child timesharing, do not hesitate to contact Fixel Neave, P.A.  We offer free consultations and accept all major credit cards as payment for services.  We can be reached by calling 954-981-2200 or by completing our online contact form.

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(954) 981-2200

12 SE 7th Street
Suite 601 
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301