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Proposed change to Florida child custody law sparks debate

Florida parents should be aware of a piece of proposed legislation that is soon to go before the state Senate. The bill seeks a change in child custody rules that would force judges to apply a shared custody structure to all cases. While there are provisions that would allow a judge to deviate from a 50/50 child custody award, the main point of the bill would be to begin from a position that shared custody is the outcome that should result from most cases.

Proponents of the bill feel strongly that the current child custody system favors one parent (usually the mother) over the other. They also feel that the current approach places fathers in a position of being little more than an occasional visitor in the lives of their children. They argue that research supports the notion that kids need both parents to thrive, and that rules supporting equal child custody rights give parents equal footing in court.

Those who oppose the bill point out that each and every set of circumstances is unique, and asking judges to begin from a position of 50/50 custody is unfair to both parents and children. They point out that such a system does not support the needs of infants who are nursing, or children who have special needs that can be better met by one parent than the other. They argue that a legal assumption that children are best served by spending equal time with both parents is a flawed argument.

As the proposed bill continues moving through the Florida legal process, the topic is expected to lead to more debate. At previous hearings, tensions have risen, as many people hold strong beliefs on the subject. For parents who are considering filing for divorce, the chance that 50/50 child custody splits could become the norm may speed along the timeline for filing.

Source:, "Bill on equal time in child custody heads to full Senate", Jim Rosica, Feb. 10, 2016

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