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New bill would dramatically change Florida's child custody law

As discussed previously in this blog, there is often nothing more important to Florida residents than their children. Because children are so vital to a person's life, serious child custody disputes can arise between parents when a divorce occurs. Various matters often need to be settled such as which parent should have custody of the child and what visitation rights the non-custodial parent should be afforded.

Under current Florida law, the court typically looks at the best interests of the child when making decisions involving child custody. This involves consideration of a number of different factors, with the goal of ensuring frequent and continued contact between the child and both parents.

A new bill could dramatically change State law when it comes to child custody issues, however, including what judges may do when presented with custody disputes. The bill would require judges to presume that it is in the best interests of the child to split time equally with both parents. If the judge wanted to depart from this presumption and change the time the child spent with one parent, the judge would be required to issue a detailed order explaining the basis of the decision.

The State Senate recently passed the bill. However, opponents of the bill remain, and they argue the bill could lead to negative consequences if it becomes law. For example, they challenge the data that indicates that splitting time between the parents is the best situation. They also believe the bill could cause more congestion in the courts, and that it takes away the discretion that should be afforded to judges to address the unique circumstances of each case.

It remains to be seen whether the bill will pass and become law in the State. However, parents should monitor the situation as it could dramatically impact the child custody issues in their case.

Source: Miami Herald, "Florida Senate passes bill that helps give divorced parents equal time with children," Michael Auslen, Feb. 23, 2016

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