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  • Writer's pictureJennifer LaVia


To decide how to divide custody between parents, a judge has to determine the best interests of the minor child. The judge will start with the presumption that 50/50 time-sharing is in the best interests of the child. That means that a parent who wants more than 50% of the time-sharing with the child has to prove to the judge that equal time-sharing isn’t in the best interests of the child. In most cases that’s not easy to prove.


Some cases are fairly easy, like when the parents live far apart. If one parent lives in Tallahassee and the other parent lives in Miami, then the child will have to spend more time with one parent because of school. In that case, 50/50 time-sharing wouldn’t be in the best interest of the child. If one parent has trouble getting the child to school on time, it might be in the best interests of the child to spend more time with the other parent.


But the judge will consider many different things, like whether a parent has a drug addiction or the child is really close to her step-siblings, or one parent is likely to try to keep the child away from the other parent. The judge has to decide these questions based on evidence that the parents give the judge.


For example, if a mother wants to limit the father’s time to every other weekend because she thinks he drinks too much, she will have to prove it to the judge. It isn’t enough to say that he drank a lot when they were together, because the question is whether he has a problem now. She could testify that he seems to be drunk whenever she sees him. But the judge is more likely to believe her if she has other witnesses who can confirm what she says. Maybe a teacher has noticed that the father is drunk when he picks the child up from school. Or maybe the father has had several recent DUI convictions.


If there’s not a good reason to limit a child’s time with the other parent, the judge is going to split the time equally. And parents should support this decision unless there’s a really good reason not to. As difficult as it is to be away from their children, parents need to remember that children usually do better when they have both parents fully involved in their lives. It’s not about winning and losing. It’s about what’s best for the children.

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