Is Florida a 50/50 custody state?

A couple of years ago Florida changed its statute on custody. Everybody thought the reason for the change was to make Florida a 50-50 custody state. That wasn’t the reason for the change at all. Actually, the reason for the change was pretty simple.

In Florida, too many people have never understand the law on how kids are to be raised by unmarried parents. Parents with primary custody often like authoritarians. They think that, just because they have “primary custody,” they are in complete control of the kids. They say things like, “I have primary custody, therefore you have no say in where the kids go to school.” They try to tell the noncustodial parent that they can’t show up for doctor visits, or that they can control what the kids did on the noncustodial parent’s time.

This wasn’t the law at all, either before the statute changed or after. This was never the law. So the statute was changed to make it clearer that this wasn’t the law. The statute was changed to use words like “timeshare” instead of “custody.” This change was so that people would understand that one parent has no more control over the kids than the other divorced parent.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the courthouse. So many people expected the statute to change into a 50-50 statute that it actually changed into a 50-50 statute, at least in some places.

In Florida, it seems things are changing. Despite the fact that not one word of that statute changed to turn Florida into a 50-50 state, strangely, Florida is slowly becoming a 50-50 state. In many parts of Florida, judges are deciding that 50-50 is the better custody choice for parents. Surprisingly, what everyone thought was going to happen with the new statute, but didn’t, actually did. Weird.

34 thoughts on “Is Florida a 50/50 custody state?”

  1. My daughter is going through a divorce in Florida. Her husband wants 50-50. He is a father who does nothing with his children and how can a father like that get the so called “50-50″ that he is requesting. Florida divorce law is not in favor of the children at all and they are the one’s that need the support. I am very upset with the overall divorce statutes of Florida.

  2. It seems that modern psychological theory is trending toward the idea that 50/50 custody is more in the best interest of the children, so I disagree with you that Florida law is not in the best interest of the children. However, there are many cases in which 50/50 rotating custody is not awarded in Florida. That type of custody is certainly not an “automatic.” far from it. If, as you say, your son-in-law is not involved substantially in his children’s lives 50/50 rotating custody is probably a longshot. On the other hand, it’s surprising sometimes how people sometimes change in terms of becoming closer to their children after divorce.

    Sometimes giving someone 50/50 custody is an opportunity for that person to become closer to their children. Sometimes it’s just giving them enough rope to hang themselves.

  3. Well said Brent Rose. It is true, sometimes dad’s learn the hard way.
    Our culture has been changing for decades. Mom’s are not “stay at home”. anymore. My mother was the last of them. She did not even drive. We totally depended on dads income. We did not relate with dad as much. He was always working. As teenagers, he wanted to spend time with us. But we just wanted money from him.
    in retrospect, i feel sorry for my father. But I love him for his sacrifice. I am sure he would of stayed home if he could!
    But that was the 60’s!
    As a single dad I have seen the changes first hand. Both parents are expected to work.. I see dad’s now liberated to hug and kiss their children. That did not happen in the 60’s. Watch old TV family shows. Did not happen. Men are still repressed from loving there children openly. It is BS.
    People should be allowed to parent as much as they think they can.
    Men should be given a learning curve.

  4. I always thought that 50/50 was going to work to encourage my son’s dad to stay around and e a father. Unfortunately, He has him about 80/20 and still is at the advantage of not paying any child support. He will not even split extra curricular expenses and there is not a court in the world who will change 50/50 custody unless there is MAJOR abuse. As far as I am concerned, it is just an excuse for SOME dads to escape child support and move on with their new lady and not be obligated to spend any of their money on their “kid”. He has also had the RIGHT to block me fom entering my child into a private school. JUST BECAUSE HE DOESN’T AGREE. He never even so much at looked at a report card. If parents could agree on things 50/50 don’t you think they would probably still be married????

  5. That’s one opinion, I suppose.

    On the other hand, he isn’t exactly at the “advantage” of not paying child support, since the “advantage” of not paying could cost him his license, his passport, and some jail time.

    And courts don’t need “major abuse” to change timeshare, they need a “substantial change of circumstances.” While it’s true that some dads seek 50/50 timeshare to reduce support, I’m convinced that most dads seek 50/50 out of the legitimate concern that they want to spend more time with their children. If you agreement or order says that he should be paying 50% of extra-curriculars (like almost all agreements and orders), file a motion for contempt.

    And is he “blocking” private school or he is, like many of us, including myself, an advocate of public education? You say it’s a “block,” but doesn’t he have the right to contribute equally to the decision as to where his child goes to school?

    And why would you make the stupid assertion that people would be married if they could agree on 50/50 timesharing? People get divorced for all sorts of reasons. Can’t they be intelligent enough to put their children first and agree on what’s best for the children? And sometimes isn’t seeing each parent equally what’s best for the children?

    You’re not getting child support and you’re angry because he has equal rights to your child. File your motion for contempt and put your child, not your anger over money, first. One may as well ask you why you had a child with a deadbeat in the first place.

  6. I find this topic rather interesting as Florida offered nothing more than shared parental custody with primary residence when I was divorced. Now I am watching my sister in law go through her divorce from a man that spent about 5/95 with his children while they were married. Now that he has left and realizes how much child support he will have to pay he has out the calendar and makes sure he has them at his parents’ house (while he is still out and about) for his 50% of the time.

    As a parent that fought for 3 years to gain custody of my son I still see many problems with this setup. Even if the parents are trying to do this 50/50 split for legitimate reasons, is it really in the best interest of the children to live with one parent one week and then move to the other house the next week? Further, I would assert these people have divorced for a reason, and with so much frequent contact hostilities will likely continue. Finally, I would add that you now have two families that are forced to stay in the same town whether they like it or not to honor the other person’s rights. This sounds like a situation that is set up for failure right from the start.

  7. Doug,

    Study after study seems to be showing that most kids do better with significant time with both parents. The old “dad gets every other weekend” idea just isn’t panning out. It’s interesting to know that the “tender years doctrine”– the idea that kids, especially younger kids, do better with the mother, is historically recent. Throughout most of history, men have always been awarded the children. Essentially, I guess this has occurred because the men usually had the money to raise the kids. Today, I think it takes an individualized approach. What fits for one family likely won’t fit for another.

  8. I’m currently going through a divorce here in Florida and am scarred that I might lose time with my children. I want 50/50 but she is now fighting against it. I spend about 80% of the bills when she can make close to what I make. I aslo pay for all of the extra activities and when I ask for help she refuses and I normally tell her a month in advance. We still live together but in seperate rooms and it is veru sad for the children but I can afford the mortgage and to move out and she wont leave because I pay almost all of the bills. What is sad is that I’m asking the courts for 50/50 and she already has it but wants more because she wants child support and I believe is using the excuse to that it would be more stable for the boys to be in one household more but I know its because she wants child support. I’m a police officer and work with children all the time and being in a single parent household is hard and the children seem to get into trouble a lot more. I’m very active in their lives and am not trying to escape paying what I have to but for me and the children I see day in and day out needs a two parents to raise them correctly. I just fill that the male has to start at the bottom and work his way up when the women already start up top, for me it doesnt seem fare

  9. Duane,

    Take heart. There certainly was a time in Florida when there was a strong presumption in favor of the mother getting “custody,” and it’s still that way in many states. But this isn’t true any more. Generally, “rotating timeshare” (50/50 custody) is the norm in Florida so, all else being equal, you should expect to have the kids half of the overnights. You didn’t put any details on the monetary issues, so I can’t help you with that, but take heart in that you won’t be living together for long, and she’s going to have to make her own way. Judges hate the idea that someone will try to get more timeshare just to get more child support.

  10. When the courts decide 50/50 custody, and parents do not agree, how are nights and weekends divided? Also, in Florida, what choice does the judge have other than sole custody for father, sole custody for mother, and 50/50? thanks

  11. Russ,

    Judges are allowed to decide 50/50, sole custody (but very rarely), or anything in between. They can say week on/week off, every other weekend, the third Tuesday of the full moon, or anything that represents the “best interest of the child.”

    But there should be a circumstance where parents don’t agree when the judge orders rotating custody (“50/50″) because the judge should designate which nights the children will be with what parent. If the judge didn’t say specific nights, shame on the judge. But the parents will have to work it out as adults. If the adults are babies and can’t work it out, they should go to mediation or, as a last resort, file a Motion for Clarification of the judge’s order, asking the judge to designate specific overnights.

  12. My ex and I have been seperated for slightly over 2 years now and have been sharing the kids 50/50 switching every Friday after school. Because we each have the kids 50% of the time and pay our own bills (including child costs and extracirricular costs) neither of us pay any child support. The kids are doing great in school and love having both parents equally involved and even talk to the parent they aren’t with every night. This is perfect for us and the kids, but will a judge agree with this? I think changing it now will be what hurts the kids? I’m about to file for a divorce and hope that we can keep it simple just as it but worry that they will focus on child support and income and not what’s best for our kids. Is there a way to avoid court since we are in agreement 100% and it works?

  13. Hi Amanda,

    50/50 timeshare is the preferred condition in timeshare, and a judge will grant your request if both parents agree. You’ll still have to file all the divorce papers, including a parenting plan, and one of you will have to appear at a final hearing for a few minutes before the judge, but that’s all you should have to do. One caveat: you can’t just agree to child support. The two of you will have to follow Florida’s child support guidelines system in coming up with a number for support. Even though you have 50/50 timeshare, your incomes may differ enough so that one of you owes support to another. Call me or write me (brose@attorneysusa.com), and I can help you with your paperwork.

  14. Ok I jave a few questions I agreed to 50/50 well kind of bullied into agreeing which I have been doing the joint custody for 3 years .My ex works 2 jobs so he is never home with my child his wife takes care of him .And she and I don’t always get along and when that happens on his week since he is never there i can’t talk to my child .Also now this year he has decided that i will not see my kids for Thanksgiving nor Christmas because its his week which isnt fair for my kids nor me .What can i do to stop this ?

  15. Teresa,

    What is it you want to stop? Him strictly adhering to your agreement? Does your agreement say that you can talk to your child when your child is with him? It should. If it doesn’t, I’ll bet that’s because you didn’t use a lawyer, and shame on you for that. Does your agreement say that you get part of Christmas day? It should. If it doesn’t, I’ll bet that’s because you didn’t use a lawyer, and shame on you for that.

    If he’s violating the written terms of the agreement, get a lawyer and file a motion for contempt. If he isn’t violating the agreement, then you have to ask what happened to make it written so poorly that he can keep your child from you on Christmas or even talking to you for a week at a time.

  16. What is 50/50 ? This is what my none year old daughter’s father is after but he is yet to follow the order that’s in place now. He recently lost his full time job and is only working part time. He’s now married with two new babies and is looking for a way to save money. He’s never been to a Dr’s appt. or anything to do with our daughter but pick her up every other weekend. He works over night and will not be able to get her ready and take her to school . How is this the best interest of my daughter … Her step mother would be responsible for things I’m free and able to do… I’m disable and can take care of her needs full time. My daughter has speech and OT therapy 3 times a week, tutoring once a week, is this going to stop ? How the court just remove a child from a stable home and everything she is a custom to?

  17. Ms. Garcia,

    I assume that there hasn’t been a timeshare (custody) determination yet.

    It’s not a race. A judge doesn’t say, “this parent doesn’t work, so therefore the child should live with this parent.” The goal is usually to split the time equally, if possible. Even if the child lives with her father a substantial part of the time, can you pick her up and take her to her therapy? Judges try to figure out what’s best, not who wins.

    In your case, I don’t know what’s best. Judges usually spend hours or days trying to figure that out. Get a lawyer who can present the best case for you, and hopefully things will also work out best for your daughter.

  18. I have 50 50 with my ex. I keep the kids 80% of the time. Its always an excuse from I’m going out to I don’t want to get kicked out of my house. He stays with his brother. We are supposed to split everything but that don’t happen. He even files them on taxes every year which was the only thing not stated in the divorce. It hurts my kids all the time when their dad makes an excuse why he isn’t coming. Its even to the point he drops them off at five in the morning so I can get them off to school. Even if I wanted to work I wouldn’t be able cause I would not be able to pay fulltime daycare.

  19. Hi Beth,

    So file a supplemental petition to 1) change your timeshare agreement to demonstrate the reality that you have the kids 80% of the time, and 2) increase his child support to reflect the 80% of the time that you have the kids. When your timeshare changes to 80%, under federal law, you automatically get the tax deductions and credits.

  20. The only best interest for the children in this country is for parents to do what they can to stay together. When you have a spouse who screws up and refuses to go to counseling to learn to be the tfather and e spouse he should be, how can he possibly have 50/50. I have been a stay at home mom for the last two years and my husband left in January. He has not paid me a cent in support and refuses to get help for an addiction that has caused us to separate. He is being Mr. Nice Guy now with working harder to have a 50/50 agreement then he ever did to get help and do what is really best for his family. It upsets me to think that since he is selfish, he can just leave and take my son away from me 50/50 when I fear what my son will be exposed to if he’s with him that long.I met with a “lawyer” the other day that says I need to get over it and get a job. She also said that the fact that two weekends in a row that my husband lied to not pick up our son on time and went drinking with friends before coming to get our son was just a tit for tat. Are you serious???

  21. Krys,

    Well, this isn’t really the complaint line, and it sounds like you’ve posted more of a complaint than a question. I do agree that it’s usually best for the kids that the parents stay together, but not always. It isn’t best for the kids to watch their parents remain in an arguing, dysfunctional relationship in most cases. Most divorces in Florida end in 50/50 “custody” (the proper term is “timeshare”), so the lawyer probably gave you good advice, though this business about him lying to about the weekends is concerning.. She’s right that you can’t be a stay-at-home wife when you aren’t a wife any more. It’s a good time to move on past this loser husband, but I think you might have to get used to the idea of 50/50. Try to talk to some other lawyers in your area.

  22. Does the 50/50 “timeshare” only apply to divorced parents? My son is going trying to establish Paternity and wants custody of his son at least 50% of the time. My Grandson shares his last name on his Birth Certificate and has not seen or spoken to his child in over 3months.
    My son recently disputed a BS Domestic Violence charge and injunction for a restraining order upon filling the Paternity paper work. Should I mention my Grandsons Mothers Aunt is a family lawyer, so she has free representation meanwhile we are trying to come up with enough money so we can afford an attorney. I believe the Injunction was dropped, but he was instructed by the lawyer that represented him in the DM Charge and Restraining order not to contact his sons Mother until they go through family court. Its already been 3 months how much longer does he have to wait to see his child, and how is that not considered Parental Alienation or Kidnapping? Can he file for temporary Custody? Since she isn’t allowing any kind of visitation.

  23. Sharon,

    The “50/50 rule” applies to paternity cases just as it applies to divorce cases.

    Obviously, I don’t know much about your son’s case, but, based on what you’ve said, I think your son should apply for temporary timeshare immediately. He should also be trying to communicate with the mother about timeshare, probably in writing, like in emails or texts that he saves. Three months is too long to go without seeing your child.

  24. My son’s father and I are not married. His father is on the birth certificate. A year and a half ago his father lost everything. We were evicted from the house because he was not making the mortgage payments. He had no place for us to live, and he was going to live in his car. I went back out of state to be with my family because they had a place for me and our 1 year old at the time to live. He knew we had to go so that my son and I had somewhere safe to be. We have been with my parents for almost a year and a half. He has never come to visit us, and we have never come to visit Florida. I have been raising our son, and going to school to pursue a teaching credential. Now that we have decided not to be together, he is going to pursue legal action. No paternity has been established. He is telling me he will get awarded 50/50 with the new law changes.
    Given the circumstances that my son has lived in another state for over a year in a very healthy multigenerational home, is it likely they would ask me to relocate back to Florida to award him 50/50? His father has not seen him in over a year, I have built a life out of state, do judges look at these factors in time sharing?

  25. Suzie,

    Though I can’t be sure based on what you’ve written, it sounds like your case would take place in the state where you live (where your child has lived for more thahn six months), not Florida. You should check with a lawyer there. If your case were to occur in Florida, you’d be right, all your factors would be important with regard to time sharing.

  26. Hello I have a 14 month old. Me and the mother were together the whole time and just recently split up. During this time she wouldnt let me take him to my mothers house or anywhere else because she was paranoid. She was living with her mother the whole time while I lived in my own home but I was there daily. We werent getting along so we called it quits. I want to file for 50/50 custody. I am a highschool teacher, I have my own home with a room for the baby, and I make good income (70k). Will they make me retropay the last 14 months even though we were together? I didnt think we’d split up so I didnt give her checks or any of that I just paid for the groceries and clothes and whatever the baby and my ex needed. Also what are my chances of getting 50/50? We live within 5 miles from each other. She is giving me a hard time about seeing my son now and everything has to be on her terms. She said she is going to fight it all the way so I get denied 50/50. Please help, Thanks

  27. Yes. I’m in need of help. I have a daughter about to be three in june. me and her mother just split up maybe 8 months ago. she lets me see my daughter on wednesdays afternoon then from friday noon till saturday night. i dont pay her any money but i do but the child cloths and anything she needs. when she is with me i take her to the park, petting zoo, etc… i try and stay active with her and do fun things with her. my daughter loves me and we have a strong bond. i work two jobs as of now but am probably going to quit my morning job ( from 5am-12pm) which ive heard can hurt me because of the hours. I recently started a night job. which i typically work from (5-10pm) i will try to get different hours once i figure out the court system. we live withing 20miles tops of one another. possibly more close to ten miles. I dont want full custody. due to the fact i strongly believe a child needs both parents equally. so i have a few questions. whats the difference between shared and joint custody and which one does florida favor more?
    few questions are
    1.) whats the best hours to work to get shared custody.
    2.) odds of me getting equal time and not pay child support. ( understanding i will buy school cloths and help pay for any after school expensies.?
    3.) rotating holiday?
    4.) the amount of money needed to retain a lawyer. (est.)
    5.) how old does a child have to be to have anysay where they chose to live.?

  28. Joseph,

    You left out the most important part, which is whether you are married to the mother. I’ll assume you aren’t and never have been. I’ll aswer your questions as best I can:

    1.) whats the best hours to work to get shared custody.

    The best hours are the ones that allow you to work and support your child. If you can make your own hours, you obviously want to be off from work when your daughter is off from school.

    2.) odds of me getting equal time and not pay child support. ( understanding i will buy school cloths and help pay for any after school expensies.?

    Because the Florida House walked out this session, a bill that would have called for presumptive 50/50 timeshare (“custody”) failed in this year’s legislature. But judges still generally favor 50/50, so your odds of getting it may be good. And remember that no one has discretion of child support. If the guidelines say you pay it, then you pay it. Even the judge can’t change that.

    3.) rotating holiday?

    See above.

    4.) the amount of money needed to retain a lawyer. (est.)

    Ask around a lot. There are lots of lawyers with lots of different arrangements. Hopefully, you’ll find one that can do the amount of services you need at the right price.

    5.) how old does a child have to be to have anysay where they chose to live.?

    18

  29. When Bothe parties are in 50\50 split . how is child support figure out . with one parent making say 59000 a year and another around 17000. ?

  30. I live in miami dade county and have hired a lawyer to represent me in my case to fight the mother of my child to be able to attain 50/50. Since you said that 50/50 has been awarded in many parts of florida, my first question is if miami dade county is one of those places where 50/50 is the norm for rulings.
    The mother of my child does not want me to get the 50/50 as the letter from her lawyer stated and furthermore gave false accusations that i have not helped out financially with my son, which i have. I have kept receipts and paid everything with check and also pay for my sons medical insurance. Which brings me to my second questions, does paying the medical/health insurance for my son go towards child support ?
    She also makes about $1,500-$2,000 more a month than i do. Her and her lawyer are asking me to pay a portion of the medical bills when he was born. Is that something that usually happens as well ? An important fact here is that i never had any kind of relationship with her, literally a one night stand that led to my son ( and a DNA test has already been done).
    The last question is if my sons age would hurt my case ? He is 6 months old, healthy and not breast feeding. The mother works in the afternoon until midnight and i work from the morning till afternoon but she still refuses to let me take him so im basically forced to go visit him while the grandmother is taking care of him and i dont feel comfortable there. Oh, how is child aupport calculated ? .. thank you so much in advance for your time in answering these questions ! :)

  31. Sal,
    It’s been a while since I’ve practiced in Miami, so you’ll have to ask a couple of lawyers there how the judges are ruling on 50/50 timeshare. My questions, as always in cases like this, is why would you ask for 50/50? If you lose, you get less then 50/50. Why not ask for more than 50/50 so that, if you lose, you may get 50/50? As I’ve said before, there is never a reason to ask for 50/50.

    As far as paying health insurance, medical bills and co-pays is concerned, no, this money does no go toward child support.

    It’s up to the judge whether you have to pay a part of the birth costs. The law in Florida is not settled on this.

    Considering that the mother mostly works evenings, you should probably have the child most overnights (depending on what your lawyer plead for).

    Child support is calculated according to the Florida Child Support Guidelines. You can find a copy of the Florida supreme court website.

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