Misconceptions About Florida Parental Responsibility

Misleading information about parental responsibility, time-sharing and child support can have far-reaching effects on your case and your children. To avoid surprises and be prepared, know the facts about common misconceptions in Florida family law.

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Parental responsibility and time-sharing

Misconception: Florida uses the terms custody and visitation.

Fact: In 2008, Florida replaced these terms with parental responsibility and time-sharing/parenting time (respectively). Parents must use the new terms in paperwork, hearings and trials.

Misconception: All parental responsibility and time-sharing cases go to trial.

Fact: Only a small number of family law cases go to trial. The majority settle using mediation or other alternatives to court.

Misconception: Florida law requires parents to share parenting time equally (50/50).

Fact: The courts decide time-sharing based on the children's best interests.

Misconception: Sole parental responsibility and sole parenting time are common.

Fact: Courts only award these if a parent voluntarily forfeits their rights or if special circumstances put the children's safety at risk. If one parent receives sole responsibility, the other will still likely get parenting time, often with restrictions (e.g., supervision or no overnights).

Misconception: Courts favor mothers.

Fact: Judges decide cases based on parents' abilities to care for the children. They may give more parenting time to the parent who's been the primary caregiver, regardless of gender.

Misconception: The father's name must be on the child's birth certificate for him to have rights and responsibilities.

Fact: The father's name doesn't have to be on the birth certificate for either parent to pursue responsibility, parenting time or child support. Unmarried parents confirm paternity when they file a case, and DNA tests will be required if either parent challenges paternity.

Misconception: Children over 12 can decide which parent they want to live with.

Fact: Florida doesn't set an age at which children can have a say in the process. Judges decide whether or not to consider a child's preferences.

Child support

Misconception: The father always pays child support to the mother.

Fact: Courts don't consider gender when determining support payments, which are based on parents' incomes, child-related expenses, number of children, and time with the children. Typically, the parent with less parenting time pays the majority-time parent.

Misconception: If parents have a 50/50 time-sharing arrangement, child support isn't required.

Fact: This is only the case in situations where parents have equal net incomes and child-related costs, in addition to equal time-sharing.

Misconception: A parent can choose not to receive child support.

Fact: The courts protect children's right to financial support from both parents. A parent can't waive this right.

Misconception: If a parent doesn't pay child support, the other parent can keep the children from them.

Fact: Failure to pay child support does not affect time-sharing; restricting the other parent's awarded time for any reason violates court orders.

Misconception: Refusing to work reduces the child support you owe.

Fact: Only involuntary unemployment can reduce or suspend child support payments. If a parent chooses to be unemployed or underemployed, the law requires them to pay based on the income they could be earning.

Misconception: If a parent pays alimony (spousal support), they don't have to pay child support.

Fact: Child support is for the children, and alimony is for the spouse, so it's common for a parent to pay both. When calculating parents' net incomes for child support, alimony paid can be deducted, and alimony received must be included.

Misconception: A parent can stop paying if they don't like how the other parent spends child support money.

Fact: The law doesn't specify how child support can be spent, and the courts won't hear complaints about this issue.

Preparing for your case

The court process can be confusing and overwhelming, even for parents with lawyers. Research and preparation are essential to getting what's best for your children.

The Custody X Change app offers a parenting plan template, personalized time-sharing calendars, a shared expenses tracker and more. You can use the app in Florida to help negotiate, prepare evidence and create a settlement agreement.

Be prepared for whatever arises in your case with Custody X Change.

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