Child custody is one of the most complex and divisive issues in family law. Because there can be so much at stake, from parental rights to the welfare of a child, there are many laws in place that establish certain protections and direct family courts on how to resolve child custody matters lawfully and fairly.
However, these laws are always changing or being challenged. Recently, for example, a bill was proposed that would have dramatically affected the trajectory of child custody cases across the state. The bill, which was recently vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott, would have directed courts in the state to presume that equal parenting time was best for Florida children.
Whether you supported the proposed bill or not, the fact is the presumption of equal parenting time was indeed controversial.
On one hand, there are studies that show how much a child can benefit from having frequent and stable interactions with both parents. In fact, current state laws dictate that courts favor arrangements where parents share parental responsibilities unless it would harm or negatively affect the child.
On the other hand, making it a law for courts to presume equal parenting is perhaps not the answer. According to Scott, such a presumption puts the interests of parents ahead of the well-being of the child. Further, it could cause considerable damage and pain to families for whom this would not be appropriate.
The fact is when it comes to child custody, every situation different; no two families are the same or benefit from the same things. Making it a law to presume otherwise would have made an already difficult situation even more upsetting for families who don't want or benefit from equal parenting time.
Because the measure was vetoed, Florida courts will retain flexibility in assessing the specific elements in a particular case and determining what is in the best interests of individual children and families.
However, this doesn't mean that child custody cases will be conflict-free or easy. There are still many issues and concerns that you will be faced with if you are dealing with custody or parenting time matters, so it is generally wise to consult an experienced family law attorney.