Get Your Free Consultation Today

Florida Courts Reinforce Child Time-Sharing Policy

Florida somewhat uniquely combines several concepts of child custody and visitation into a scheme known as "time-sharing." Essentially, though a post-divorce child may reside with one parent or another, the relevant statute explicitly lays out Florida public policy: that minor children frequently and continuously have contact with both parents.

Indeed, Florida courts have long stressed the importance of access by a parent to a minor child. In 1949, the Florida Supreme Court decided the case of Yandell v. Yandell. In Yandell, a lower court had completely denied visitation to the father. Reversing that decree, the Supreme Court wrote that visitation of minor children may not be denied to a parent "so long as he or she conducts himself or herself, while in the presence of such children, in a manner which will not adversely affect the morals or welfare of such progeny."

Florida Appeals Court Revisits Yandell

On April 9, 2014, the Fourth District Court of Appeal of Florida—covering Palm Beach, Broward, St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River, and Okeechobee Counties—returned to the doctrine at issue in Yandell. In Davis v. Lopez-Davis, like in Yandell, the court was presented with an appeal from a father denied visitation. The lower court had awarded 100 percent of the time-sharing to the mother, and the father asserted that this was contrary to the public policy of Florida.

The Davis court began its analysis by stating that it reviews these types of decisions under a so-called 'abuse of discretion' standard. This means that it would only overrule the lower court if the lower court's ruling was clearly unsupported by evidence and clearly wrong. But even with this extremely high bar, the court of appeals reversed the lower court.

The court reiterated the above-mentioned quotation from the Yandell case. It also cited a more recent Florida Supreme Court case that stated that a parent has a constitutional right to "a meaningful relationship with his [or her] children." And it held that, despite the lower court's reasoning, the father in question could not be completely denied visitation in a time-sharing schedule.

Still, the Davis case tested the low bar set by Yandell. In Davis, the father had not been in Florida for over five years prior to the visitation order. He had no knowledge of or involvement in the child's upbringing, including the child's schooling or medical history. Even the appeals court conceded that "the husband and child do not know each other."

However, without a showing that allowing visitation would harm the child's well being—without, in the words of the Yandell court, a showing that visitation would "adversely affect the morals or welfare of such progeny"—the wife could not be given 100 percent of the time-sharing with the child. It violated Florida public policy, Florida statute, and Florida case law.

An Attorney Can Assist You Today

If you need help drafting or modifying a time-sharing schedule, or have any other family law-related questions, please contact the legal professionals at Hager & Schwartz, P.A. today to learn how we can help. Hager & Schwartz, P.A. has offices in Miami, Hollywood, Boca Raton and Daytona Beach.

Categories: Child Custody, Family Law