Florida’s New Parent Timesharing Affects Schools

Florida’s visitation is now timesharing and residential parent is now majority timesharing parent. As a Florida family law attorney I have focused on the parents and children going through this change, but it was brought to my attention that change in visitation and custodial parents is actually having an impact on the Florida schools.
I practice primarily in Jacksonville, Orange Park, Fernandina and St. Augustine, but an article in the Bradenton Herald caught my attention. The article, entitled “Schools Custody Policy Proposed: Custodial Parent Is No Longer Decision Maker In Schools” deals with the impact the new legislation has had on the schools determining which parent is the “go to” parent on school issues. Historically, a family would go through a divorce and the mother or father was determined the “Primary Custodial Parent”. In today’s world of timesharing, things have changed and the language needs to be tightened up to make things easier. The legislature did create “Parenting Plans” to help in this transition and determine the roles of the parents.
While the article states that timesharing is designed to give both parents 50/50 split, that is actually not true. Timesharing is a way for the parents to feel as if they both get the child and that one parent is not more important or greater than the other. The courts, at least in Jacksonville, still frown at the concept of children not having a stable environment.

However, the article is interesting in that determining which parent will be the emergency contact is now more important than ever. In drafting final judgments of dissolution of marriage or paternity cases, I think it’s important to concern ourselves with the actual language, and making certain that things are not left for further interpretation down the line. Language regarding the parent’s role needs to be intentional with school in mind so that we can avoid the accusation of teachers or administrators, or attorneys for school boards stating, ““We just don’t want a battle between divorced parents to involve us,” John Bowen, attorney for Manattee County School Board said. “We are not a party to that battle and we are not going to be a party to that battle.”

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