The Florida House of Representatives is considering House Bill 1395 that, if passed, would be a catastrophic failure in protecting children. The provision would create a presumption that a 50/50 timesharing custodial schedule would be in the best interest of minor children. Shared parental responsibility is the idea that both parents are equally involved in making decisions on behalf of their child, which cannot be split into equal parts. This provision can also endanger a child’s welfare in the event of an addicted, abusive, or absentee parent.
As a family law attorney with more than 25 years of experience, I know there is no one-size-fits-all solution for the dissolution of the marriage process with consenting adults. Any blanket presumption made to support a child’s best interest is misguided and ultimately ends up hurting the children it is intended to protect. It is unfathomable that the Florida courts would consider a “catch-all” bill that would cover divorce and custodial rights.
This bill treats children as assets to be split up equally. In theory, it is understandable given the two consenting adults signed a contract, but the children—at no fault of their own—are bystanders of the situation and should not be put under the strain of being in 50/50 custody without an examination of the circumstances and what is best for them. It is an unnecessary provision tacked on for no real discernable reason.
No divorce is the same; they are unique and deserve to be treated that way, just like timesharing children. There are myriad factors that must be taken into account for deciding how much time children need with each parent. This bill also does not take into account situations of abuse, neglect or abandonment. It is paramount that the courts look out for the child’s best interests by evaluating all of the available information for each divorce and then make decisions accordingly. A one-size-fits-all approach would only create more pain for children and their families.
HB 1395 will be presented as part of legislation prohibiting the award of permanent alimony in future divorces and would also repeal court-ordered permanent alimony. With the focus of the bill centered around alimony, and the redefinition of marriage lengths, the addition of the 50/50 custodial timesharing provision seems like an afterthought. This provision is more likely to drive families into court in order to come to a more reasonable solution resulting in additional stress, legal fees, and the unnecessary extension of this already difficult, life-changing process.
We know divorce is a difficult situation for children, no matter the circumstances. This bill’s presumption exacerbates it exponentially. Divorce is a complex issue, and the welfare of a child should be the main focus in a custody proceeding, but the 50/50 timesharing provision misses the mark. As a family law advocate, I am lending my voice in opposition to HB 1395.