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Florida moves toward equally shares child custody approach

A piece of proposed legislation has passed the Florida Senate and is making its way to the House. The controversial bill would require family court judges to approach each child custody case with the presumption that a 50/50 division of custody is the best outcome for shared children. That has sparked a great deal of debate within the state, and there are strong opinions on both sides of the matter.

Supporters of the bill feel that there is plenty of research to support the idea that children fare better when they are able to spend significant time with both parents. They assert that the current approach favors mothers and leaves many fathers in the role of occasional visitor in the lives of their kids. They point out that the new law would still give judges the ability to deviate from the 50/50 division of custody by using 22 defined criteria.

Those who oppose the bill argue that each and every family law case is unique. They argue that judges should have the ability to order a child custody arrangement that is in the best interests of the child and not be guided by a presumption that 50/50 shared custody is the best possible fit. They also point out that a change is likely to flood the courts with cases in which parents ask that their existing custody order be given a second look.

As the matter moves through the legislative process, many in Florida expect the debate to continue. There are good arguments to be made on both sides of the issue, and more and more states are considering moving toward a system of shared custody. Research on the matter is far from conclusive, however, which leaves some wondering if the current child custody system offers a greater degree of flexibility for family court judges.

Source:, "Florida Senate OKs equal custody bill", Lloyd Dunkelberger, Feb. 23, 2016

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