In Florida, courts adhere to public policy when shaping a time-sharing schedule. This policy states that each minor child should have frequent and continuing contact with both parents during a separation and after a marriage is dissolved. The court adheres to the notion that parental responsibility is shared by both parents unless the court finds that it would be detrimental to the child.
It is important to note that divorce often results in a rollercoaster of emotions and situations may arise that lead to conflict between parents. If such distress leads one parent to begin restricting or altering the time-sharing of the other, Florida Statute 61.13(4)(c) states that the Court may:
1. Reimburse the denied-parent, as soon as possible, for the time-sharing missed. This is done at the convenience of the denied-parent and at the expense of the noncompliant parent; or
2. Order the noncompliant parent to pay reasonable court costs and attorney’s fees to the denied parent for the expenses incurred from bringing an action to enforce the time-sharing schedule; or
3. Order the noncompliant parent to attend a parenting course; or
4. Order the noncompliant parent to perform community service; or
5. Order the noncompliant parent to have the financial burden of promoting continuous contact, if the child resides more than 60 miles away from the compliant parent; or
6. Modify the parenting plan if it is in the best interest of the child; or
7. Impose any other reasonable sanction as a result of the parent’s noncompliance.
In addition to the possibilities listed above, if a parent refuses to honor the time-sharing schedule, they may be punished by contempt of court or another remedy that the is deemed appropriate. A contempt order may be criminal or civil. The determination of which type of contempt applies depends on the action of the party. Criminal contempt is often used to punish a party whose conduct rises to the level of embarrassing, hindering, or obstructing the administration of justice. Civil contempt is often used to persuade a party to comply with a court order after they have already failed to abide by it. To avoid being held in contempt, the parties must follow the time-sharing schedule set out by the court or properly modify it.
HOW DO YOU PROPERLY MODIFY A TIME-SHARING SCHEDULE?
Florida Statute 61.13 states that in order to modify a time-sharing schedule, a two-prong standard must be satisfied: (1) that there be a showing of substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances; and (2) a determination that the modification is in “the best interests of the child.” In order to allow for a modification of the time-sharing schedule, the change in circumstances must be significant and involuntary. Additionally, as discussed in previous blogs regarding time-sharing, the “best interest of the child” is the primary standard that the court adheres to when constructing a time-sharing schedule for a minor child and his/her parents. There are numerous factors that must be considered when determining what is best for the child, some of which are:
· The ability of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent;
· The length of time the child has lived in a stable environment; and
· The moral fitness of the parents;
Therefore, if a party meets its burden of proving that there is a substantial change in circumstances and the modification is in the best interest of the child, the court may allow for the time-sharing schedule to be altered.
It is important to remember that the focus of both parents must remain on the well-being of the minor child/children, particularly in developing a safe and healthy environment for them. Additionally, if a time-sharing schedule is modified, then child-support payments may need to be adjusted as well. If you are planning on obtaining a divorce or modifying a time-sharing schedule, it is imperative that you understand the process, as well as the rules that the court must adhere to.
The attorneys at The Orlando Law Group are equipped with the knowledge and experience to assist you with such a process. Call 407.512.4394 to schedule a consultation today.