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Unless And Until There Is A Statutory Change, Equal Time-Sharing Needs To Be Supported By A Determination That It Is In The Children’s Best Interests

March 15, 2016 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

 

 

In Marquez v. Lopez, the Fourth District Court of Appeals for the State of Florida ruled that it was in error for the trial court to award equal time-sharing without making a determination that such a time-sharing schedule was in the best interests of the children.

The Court stated in pertinent part:

First, we agree with the former wife that the trial court erred in providing for equal time-sharing without an accompanying finding that
such an arrangement is in the best interests of the children. See Jeffers v. McLeary, 118 So. 3d 287, 291 (Fla. 4th DCA 2013) (“The Father is correct that ‘a trial court must make a finding that the time-sharing schedule is in the child’s best interests.’”); Wintersv. Brown, 51 So. 3d 656, 658 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011) (recognizing that a trial court “must make a finding that the time-sharing schedule is in the child’s best interests”); Clark v. Clark, 825 So. 2d 1016, 1017 (Fla. 1st DCA 2002) (“A trial court need not make separate findings as to each of the factors in section 61.13(3), but it must find, at a minimum, that its custody determination is in the best interests of the child.”). This finding must be made either orally or in the written judgment. See Jeffers, 118 So. 3d at 291. Although the record here might support a finding that equal time-sharing is in the best interests of the childrenthe final judgment does not include such a finding and it is not for us to do so.

The parties dispute whether the trial court relied on a parenting agreement submitted after the trial concluded. The record is devoid of clarity as to whether the court did or did not rely on some agreement entered into by the parties, but even if it did, the trial court must approve of the agreed upon parenting plan as required by the applicable statute. See §61.046(14)(a), Fla. Stat. (2014).

We therefore reverse and remand for the trial court to either find that equal time-sharing is in the best interests of the children or fashion a time-sharing plan that it does find is in the best interests of the children. If the parents actually submitted a parenting plan to the court after trial, the court is not precluded from approving of the plan pursuant to section 61.046(14)(a), if the trial court holds that the plan is in the best interests of the children.

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