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Florida Best Interests Factors: Division of Parental Responsibilities

As you know already if you are a parent, parenthood consists of a hundred little daily responsibilities. Getting the kids up and dressed for school or daycare. Making breakfast. Packing a lunch. Picking up a uniform for gym class and poster board for a science project from the store. Helping with that science project between the orthodontist appointment and violin lesson. Driving to the orthodontist appointment and violin lesson. The list goes on and on, until you tuck the kids in at night and start making a list of the next day’s obligations. When you go through a divorce or end a relationship with your child’s other parent, the division of parental responsibilities becomes a factor the court considers in your child custody determination.

Florida makes decisions about custody (time-sharing) based on “the best interests of the child” as listed in Florida Statutes section 61.13(3). The statute lists about twenty factors a court must consider when determining child custody in a Florida divorce or other family law case. In this blog, we will be examining the best interests factors one by one so you can get a deep understanding of the types of things the court will be looking at in your case.

WHAT DOES THE FLORIDA CUSTODY LAW SAY ABOUT DIVISION OF PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES?

Florida Statutes section 61.13(3)(b) references:

“The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.”

What exactly does this mean? The statute is basically saying that the court will take into consideration which parent expects to be doing those hundred little things for the child after the divorce or custody case is over. Who will take off work to care for a sick child? Who will be driving the child to sports or music practice? Who will be helping with homework after school? Who will be taking the child to medical appointments?

You may not know every detail of how you and your co-parent will manage these daily details, but you probably have a pretty good idea, likely based on who is doing most of these things right now. In essence, what the court is asking is, “which parent will be available to spend time with the child and tend to her daily needs?”

The answer to this question, of course, depends in large part on your other existing obligations, including paid work, the need to care for an elderly parent, and so forth. If one parent has a part-time, flexible, work-from-home job, and the other routinely works 60 hour weeks, including frequent travel for work, this factor is likely to favor the at-home parent.

The State of Florida is not trying to penalize a parent who works long hours. It is just that children need someone to be present for them, and this factor recognizes that. Remember, there are nineteen other factors the court takes into account when evaluating custody.

What if both parents work long hours and expect to rely heavily on daycare, a nanny, or a relative to care for the child when they are unable to? That is the reference in the statute to “the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.” While it is understood that parents routinely enlist the help of others to care for their children (“It takes a village,” after all), parents shouldn’t expect to get credit for providing care that they outsourced.

TAKING STOCK OF YOUR PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES

If you expect to be involved in a custody dispute, you should think about how you and your co-parent will allocate responsibilities. If you want more time-sharing with your child, you may want to think about arranging your schedule so that you can be available to take on more of those daily responsibilities, as well as the larger ones. Can you arrange your work schedule to allow you to meet the school bus? Are you able to work from home one day a week? Not everybody has the luxury of a flexible schedule, of course, but if you are able to begin taking on more parental responsibilities now, that could be to your benefit—and your child’s. Life after divorce looks different from life before. It’s never too soon to figure out how to make more time to be with your child. If you have questions about how division of parental responsibilities will affect your time-sharing determination, we invite you to contact family lawyer Antonio Jimenez to schedule a consultation.

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