Can a Florida Court Award Time-sharing Rights to a Non-Parent?
Recent changes to Florida’s child custody laws create a rebuttable presumption that a 50/50 time-sharing arrangement between both of a child’s parents are in that child’s best interest. Time-sharing is often a contentious issue in a divorce where minor children are involved. And in some cases, even individuals who are not a child’s legal parent may wish to assert a right to time-sharing.
Florida courts, however, have made it clear that non-parents have few rights when it comes to time-sharing. In 1996, the Florida Supreme Court struck down a state law permitting a judge to grant visitation rights to a child’s grandparent over one parent’s objection. The court said the law violated the parent’s constitutional right of privacy, which included the “fundamental right to raise their children except in cases where the child is threatened with harm.”
Similarly, in 2000 the Supreme Court struck down another provision of state law that allowed a grandparent to seek custody of their grandchild over the parent’s objection. Again, the Court said the privacy rights of the parents were paramount. It was therefore unacceptable to apply the “best interest of the child” standard to give a non-parent equal standing with a parent.
Florida Appeals Court Reverses Order Granting Stepfather Shared Custody
More recently, the Florida Third District Court of Appeal held that even someone who was married to a child’s natural parent and fulfilled the role of a parent did not have the right to seek time-sharing in a divorce case. The case before the Third District, Quiceno v. Bedier, involved a husband who filed for divorce from his wife in 2021. The wife had a minor child, identified in court records as “J.Q.”. At the time of J.Q.’s birth in 2016, the mother identified another man as the father. She then wed the husband and subsequently went to court to successfully disestablish the paternity of the putative father. The husband and wife subsequently had two children together.
In his divorce petition, the husband identified himself as the father of all three children, including J.Q., even though he never legally adopted him. In his petition, the husband said J.Q. had lived with him since birth and that he considered the husband to be his father. The trial court accepted this and granted the husband equal time-sharing rights with the wife as part of the final divorce judgment.
On appeal, however, the Third District reversed that part of the judgment. The Third District said Florida Supreme Court precedent made it clear that a non-parent could not exercise any time-sharing rights. Absent any showing of “demonstrable harm” to the child, the trial court simply lacked the authority to grant the husband any time-sharing rights.
Contact the Law Office of Laura A. Olson, P.A., Today
There are a number of issues that can complicate decisions regarding time-sharing and other aspects of child custody in a divorce case. If you need legal representation and guidance in this area, Tampa divorce lawyer Laura A. Olson is here to help. Call her today at 813-222-0888 or contact her office online to schedule a free initial consultation.