Florida recognizes the concept of child time sharing rather than custody. This time sharing can be awarded equally between the mother and father, or one parent may be given “majority time sharing.” Time sharing can be complicated under ordinary circumstances, but it can become even more complex when one or both parents serve in the military.
House Bill 435 was signed into law in 2008, and provides for some significant changes to time sharing for military parents. According to this law, if military parents are “activated, deployed or temporarily assigned to military service” for more than 90 days, and the ability to exercise time sharing is impacted as a result, the service member may designate another person to act on his or her behalf. This individual must be a family member, stepparent or relative by marriage.
To become effective, the appointment must be made in writing, and delivered to the other parent at least 10 days in advance. There is no requirement for the other parent to agree; in fact, he or she may only object on the grounds that this visitation is not in the best interest of the child. An emergency hearing can be granted if a dispute arises.
Military deployments can also affect time sharing; however, House Bill 435 also makes it difficult for service members or their former spouses to modify an order. The law prohibits the court from modifying an existing order unless “clear and convincing” evidence exists that doing so would be in the best interest of the child.
In Florida, parents seeking a time-sharing modification have the burden of proof when it comes to showing a “substantial and material change in circumstances”. These changes must also be unanticipated at the time of the final judgment, which is something that poses an even bigger challenge for parents who were on active duty at the time of their divorce.
This new law provides some challenges for thousands of Florida residents who serve in the military. If you’re a service member and would like to designate another person for time sharing or petition the court for a modification, contact us.