New Florida Law Says 50/50 Sharing is Best for Children
A new Florida law could have far-reaching implications for divorcing couples with children. Effective July 1, 2023, the new law signed by Governor DeSantis helps “unwed fathers” gain rights over a child they previously did not necessarily have as the parents were unmarried. In that case, even if his name was on the birth certificate, the care and responsibility for a child automatically defaulted to the mother.
As of 2016, Florida law did not require parenting responsibilities to be shared equally but instead allowed the parents and court to make decisions based on the child and his best interests.
Now in Florida, a child born out of wedlock recognizes that a father with established paternity can also share in the rights and responsibilities of child-rearing, no matter the quality of the relationship between the biological parents. The assumption is that the child’s best interest is 50/50 shared custody.
If that is not in the child’s best interest, the challenging parent must submit evidence to the court that the 50/50 parenting plan will harm the child in some way.
Equal Timesharing Bill, HB 1301
The bill was carried by Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulica, R-Fort Myers, and Sen. Shevrin D. Jones, D-Miami Gardens. The new law also allows the court to modify a time-sharing schedule if one parent relocates within 50 miles of the child.
Still to be determined is if the new law is retroactive or affects children born after its effective date. Time will tell whether HB 1301 truly results in what’s best for the child.
Here is how it will affect the partners:
For Fathers – In essence, it gives unwed fathers more standing in the court, whether they seek it or not. It also requires fathers financially support their children. Previously, many fathers complained that they only had parental rights when the mother sought child support. The ability to make crucial decisions over the child’s health, education, religion, and living arrangements was assumed to belong to the mother, who was considered the “natural guardian” unless the parents agreed to a parenting plan.
For Mothers – The exercise of parental rights by the unmarried biological father has the potential to complicate a conflict-free home. While both parents are now encouraged to make decisions on behalf of the child, if the parents are in conflict, one parent will have to petition the court to argue that a 50/50 shared custody is not operating in the child’s best interest. “The preponderance of the evidence” submitted must make that case.
Conversely, a mother may now expect that by law, the father will share in child-rearing expenses.
Expect an increase in filings to fine-tune this new law and define the extent of each parent’s rights. With time, court challenges to fix any issues with the law could ultimately cause it to change.
Your Florida Family Law Attorney
Suppose you have a divorce pending in a Florida court. In that case, contact our office to determine whether another bill, just signed into law, affects Florida divorces where one party is seeking permanent alimony.
Regarding a child-sharing plan, you and your unmarried partner must detail the shared responsibility over significant decisions, including housing, schooling, healthcare, extracurricular activities, vacations, physical custody, and funding for the above.
When one parent does not agree with the assumption that 50/50 child sharing is in the best interests of a minor child, she will have the burden of submitting convincing evidence for the court to evaluate. The court will then assess all the factors and make a specific written finding to help modify an untenable child-sharing parenting plan.
In some cases where communication is ineffective, a mediator or a third party may be needed to help the parents come to an agreement that allows them to co-parent their child or children peaceably.
With the guidance of Attorney Spencer, the best interest of the child and a stable home life will always be the priority. She can help keep your interests intact while establishing boundaries with the other parent. Call our Pensacola office at 850-795-4910 to have this most important conversation about how to move forward under the new Florida law.