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Explaining the New Parental Timesharing Plan Law in Florida

By: Beth T. Vogelsang, Esquire

Senate Bill 590 was signed by Governor Rick Scott on June 15, 2017 and shall take effect on January 1, 2018. The law requires the Department of Revenue to establish and incorporate standard parenting time plans in certain Title IV-D cases. A Standard Parenting Time Plan would have to be presented to the parties in any administrative action taken by the Title IV-D program to determine paternity or to establish or modify child support, and allow the parents to bypass having courts determine child time-sharing issues.

What is different about the new Standard Parenting Time Plan?

The Standard Parenting Time Plan would allow the parent who is obligated to support a minor child to spend every other weekend with the child from Friday evening until Monday morning, one night during the week until 8:00 p.m., one-half of the child’s winter and spring breaks from school, and two weeks in the summer. The Title IV-D Standard Parenting Time Plan would not be used in cases involving domestic violence. The Standard Parenting Time Plan would only apply to child support cases enforced by the Department of Revenue (“DOR”) in which the State of Florida is providing some assistance to the parent receiving child support, and only where the parents agree to the Plan. In most of these cases the parents are not married.

The DOR’s current authority is limited to establishing paternity or support obligations, as well as modification, enforcement and collection of child support. Unlike divorce actions, there is no systematic approach to establish parenting time agreements where the parents were not married at the time of the parent’s birth. If the parents do not agree to the Standard Parenting Time Plan or another parenting time plan, an administrative support order would have to refer the parents to the appropriate court to establish a parenting plan.

Purpose of the New Law

Because the law addresses child support and parenting time in the same process, proponents believe it serves judicial economy and is less burdensome on parents than having multiple administrative or court proceedings. Supporters of the legislation suggested that having a structured, formal approach to parenting time will help parents manage their co-parenting relationship and reduce conflict, ambiguity, unpredictability about parenting time arrangements. This may increase child support compliance.

Opponents of the law, including  the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, are concerned that a presumptive timesharing schedule could usurp judicial discretion to determine child custody and parenting issues. This Standard Plan would be handed or mailed by the DOR to parents and may create the misapprehension that this standard parenting schedule is either mandated or routine. It is also believed that this law creates a slippery slope which may lead to presumptive timesharing plans in all family law cases in Florida, without any regard to what parenting schedule is in the best interests of the children.

About the Author

Beth T. Vogelsang handles family law matters in a confidential, compassionate and professional manner. She represents clients in complex divorces, including matters involving international and interstate child custody disputes, intricate business valuations, and identification and tracing of marital assets and income. She also drafts and litigates matters involving prenuptial and postnuptial agreements. Beth has been Board Certified in Marital and Family Law since 1992.

Beth has received much recognition for her work in the divorce and family law field. She has been included in Florida Super Lawyers magazine (2012-2017) and named one of the Top 50 Women Attorneys in the State in 2014 and 2015. Beth has also been included in Best Lawyers in America (2013-2017) and was named the "Fort Myers Family Law Lawyer of the Year" in 2015 and 2017.  She is also AV rated by Martindale Hubbell.

Beth can be reached at 239-344-1302 or by email at beth.vogelsang@henlaw.com.