Law Offices of Renée Safier Harris, PLLC

Compassionately Guiding Families Through Custody Challenges

Divorce or separation is never easy, especially when children are involved. In Florida, the process becomes even more intricate due to the state’s specific child custody laws. Understanding these laws is crucial for parents striving to create a stable and nurturing environment for their children amidst the turmoil of separation.

At The Law Offices of Renée Safier Harris, PLLC, our focus is providing trusted legal counsel on complex child custody matters. With decades of experience litigating disputes, negotiating agreements, and most importantly, protecting children’s best interests – our firm offers sound legal advice, strategy and caring support that families deserve during the most difficult and sensitive times that a family goes through during a divorce or child custody action times. In addition, decisions related to children may need to be modified after the initial decision for various reasons.

Crafting detailed parenting plans aligned to your family’s unique circumstances and goals is paramount – reducing potential for future disputes. We understand the gravity of these decisions for children’s well-being. With decades of experience both in and out of court, our team devotes tireless effort toward securing the best possible timesharing agreements and parenting plans.

Please contact us to schedule your consultation so we can assist you in moving forward to the next chapter and best prepare for the future.

Best Interest Standard

The most important part of a divorce or a paternity action are the children involved. Florida’s policy is that all child custody decisions are made in accordance with the best interests of the child, which is determined by the courts after examining various factors and circumstances of the family. Florida law recently changed effective July 1, 2023 where the law now presumes that the parents have equal time with the children.  There are exceptions however, to this presumption, and it depends on each family’s unique circumstances as to whether there are circumstances that will override the legal presumption.  In the event the parents cannot reach an agreement on custody, timesharing and who makes the decisions in the best interests of the children, the judge assigned to your case will decide custody based on what is in the child’s best interest in accordance with Florida law.

What is Timesharing?

Florida operates under the principle of “time-sharing” – how much time each parent spends with the child or children – rather than traditional “custody” arrangements identified as the child living with one parent over the other parent. This principle emphasizes the importance of both parents being involved in their child’s life, promoting a healthy and meaningful relationship with each parent post-divorce or post-separation. However, the primary consideration in all custody decisions is the best interests of the child. 

Parental Responsibility

Parental Responsibility means which parent makes the decisions for and on behalf of the children.  Florida also recognizes different types of parental responsibility, ranging from equal or shared parental responsibility to sole parental responsibility. Shared Parental Responsibility is the most common and it requires the parents to co-parent with each other in the best interests of their children, confer with each other on important decisions and reach an agreement.  However, shared parental responsibility may not be feasible in all situations. In cases where one parent is deemed unfit or incapable of caring for the child, sole parental responsibility may be awarded to the other parent.

What is a Parenting Plan?

One of the key aspects of Florida’s child custody law is the creation of a parenting plan. This plan outlines how parents will share responsibility for their child’s upbringing, including decisions regarding education, healthcare, and extracurricular activities. Additionally, it delineates the time-sharing schedule, detailing when the child will spend time with each parent.

If the parents fail to agree on a parenting plan or if the plan is unacceptable, the court then steps in. When reviewing a parenting plan to see if it is acceptable, the court considers many factors and circumstances including but not limited to the following:

  • Each parent’s ability to maintain a close emotional relationship with the child;
  • Each parent’s ability to foster a relationship between the other parent and the child;
  • Each parent’s ability to ascertain the specific needs of the child and take the appropriate actions to address those needs;
  • Each parent’s ability to put the child’s needs before that parent’s own needs;
  • The geographic location of each of the parents in relation to the child;
  • Each parent’s ability to provide a stable residence, routine and home life for the child;
  • The emotional, mental, and physical health of each of the parents;
  • Any evidence of substance abuse, physical abuse, neglect, or abandonment of the child;
  • The educational and developmental needs of the child; and
  • Any other facts or circumstances that impact the well-being of the child.

Ultimately, Florida’s laws related to the custody of children are designed to prioritize the best interests of the child while fostering a cooperative co-parenting relationship between separated or divorced parents. By understanding these laws and working together to create a parenting plan that serves the child’s needs, parents can navigate the complexities of child custody with compassion and foresight, laying the groundwork for a stable and nurturing environment for their children to thrive.

Modifying Parenting Plans

Moreover, Florida law acknowledges the importance of modifying parenting plans when substantial circumstances change. Life is unpredictable, and what works for a family at one point may no longer be suitable in the future. Whether due to a relocation, a change in work schedule, or other significant life events, parents have the right to petition the court for modifications to the parenting plan to better accommodate the evolving needs of their child.

We are here to guide you to help build healthy timesharing plans uniquely tailored for your family.  Contact us to schedule your case evaluation. 

For Marital and Family Law Services in Palm Beach and Broward Counties, Email or Call Us (561)404-9710.