Is 50/50 Custody Best for Kids?
When parents in Florida get divorced and have minor children from their marriage, part of the divorce process will involve child custody matters. One part of child custody in Florida is time-sharing. Under Florida law (Fla. Stat. § 61.13), parents can have an equal (or 50/50) time-sharing arrangement, but equal time-sharing is not a presumption. The statute does clarify that “it is the public policy of this state that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved,” but the term “frequent and continuing contact” does not have to mean 50/50 time-sharing. Yet many parents want a presumption of 50/50 time-sharing, and in some family situations courts either order equal time-sharing or parents incorporate equal time-sharing into a parenting plan.
However, according to a recent article in Psychology Today, equal time-sharing might not actually be what is best for kids.
Rethinking the Idea That Equal Time-Sharing is “Fair”
One of the potential issues with equal time-sharing, the article suggests, is that minor kids are taught that it is what is “fair” to both parents. While Florida courts, like courts in many other states, base child custody and time-sharing decisions based on what it decides is in the best interests of the child, many children nonetheless learn that equal time-sharing is perceived as being fair to both of their parents. As a result, children learn to ignore their emotional and developmental needs and defer to the needs and wants of their parents.
To be sure, many kids who are in equal time-sharing situations come to assume that they need to endure the difficulties of alternate living in two places and alone with two different adults. In other words, going back and forth frequently between parents’ households often is emotionally and psychologically difficult for children. In some cases, the article intimates that the stability of a single household may outweigh the benefits of having continuing time-sharing with both parents that involves living in two different households.
Kids Experience Emotional Pressure
It is normal, according to the article, for kids as they mature to “discover they will have their emotional and physical needs met best by only one parent.” Yet for kids in an equal time-sharing situation, this part of growing up can become more difficult. Children must learn to behave differently in their two households, and they often feel “overwhelmed, tense, anxious, and [even] fearful” with the parent who is not the primary one fulfilling the child’s emotional needs.”
They also begin to experience emotional pressure to please both parents, and this can be particularly difficult for kids who are splitting their time between two parents’ households.
Thinking About 50/50 Child Custody on a Case-By-Case Basis
While some children experience the difficulties described above in an equal time-sharing situation, the article underscores that these emotional and psychological pressures do not arise for kids in all situations. Accordingly, the article recommends considering equal time-sharing on a case-by-case basis, and thinking specifically about the best interests of the specific child.
Seek Advice from a Family Law Attorney in Orlando
If you have questions about child custody in Florida or need assistance with your divorce, an Orlando child custody and time sharing attorney can help. Contact Anderson & Ferrin for more information.