Child Custody: Parenting Plans and Time-sharing

Some common terms that come to mind when considering child custody matters are joint custody and visitation. While used often in conversation, these terms are outdated in Florida family law courts. In 2011, Governor Scott passed a bill establishing the terms parental responsibility and parental time-sharing, to eliminate the need to identify primary and secondary parents.

In ideal situations, couples going through a divorce will work toward an agreement regarding their child’s living arrangements. Rather than enduring a custody battle or working out a visitation schedule, parents opt to draft a parenting plan outlining shared parental responsibilities and a fair amount of time for each parent to spend with their child.

Parenting Plans

The parenting plan defined by Florida statutes must be agreed upon by both parents and approved by the court.

“A document created to govern the relationship between the parents relating to decisions that must be made regarding the minor child and must contain a time-sharing schedule for the parents and child. The issues concerning the minor child may include, but are not limited to, the child’s education, health care, and physical, social, and emotional well-being. In creating the plan, all circumstances between the parents, including their historic relationship, domestic violence, and other factors must be taken into consideration.” -Florida statute

In this type of shared parenting situation, parents consult one another regarding decisions that affect the child’s well-being, just as they would if they were married. They share the responsibility when it comes to decisions about schooling, medical issues, extracurricular activities, etc. As the child grows, his or her needs may change, and the parenting plan may be adjusted as needed. The goal of the court is to act in the child’s best interest, therefore parenting plans that allow both parents to remain actively involved in the child’s life are ideal.


As defined by Florida statutes, this schedule must be agreed upon by both parents and approved by the court.

“‘Time-sharing schedule’ means a timetable that must be included in the parenting plan that specifies the time, including overnights and holidays, that a minor child will spend with each parent.” -Florida statute

Time-sharing does not necessarily mean that a child splits his or her time equally between both parents. For the sake of stability, it’s likely that a child will spend more time with one parent than the other. However, as he or she ages, the time-sharing schedule may shift. Some of the guidelines of time-sharing put in place to for the benefit of the child:

  • Neither parent shall conceal the whereabouts of any child(ren) of the parties
  • Each parent will keep the other advised at all times of the residential address and phone numbers where the child(ren) will be staying while in the custody of either parent
  • Each parent shall notify the other immediately (within 3 hours) of any emergency pertaining to any child(ren) of the parties

If you’re dealing with custody issues and are in need of legal advice, give us a call. Our experienced family law team will be happy to answer your questions and explain more about the nuances regarding various child custody options.