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By: Dean Tong
September 12, 2008

Florida dads and your new pro-father organization Fathers Supporting Fathers take heed – the new child custody law that takes effect October 1 is not what it’s cracked up to be. Let’s take a look at what Florida legislators have done to allegedly improve the maxim “the best parent is both parents.”

The new law contains different language as the current/old terms visitation, custody, custodial parent, primary residential parent and non-custodial parent are gone. In are the terms parenting plan and time-sharing schedule. Quoting the new language – The Division of Statutory Revision is directed to re-designate Chapter 61, Florida Statutes, as “Dissolution of Marriage; Support; Time-Sharing.” Please see the entire bill here for Ch. 2008-61.

That should appease, pacify and placate future divorced dads of Florida! Instead of being labeled visitors you can now be called time-sharers. Dads – You are now equivalent to high-rise condos! The new law is redundant, too, eradicating “the tender years doctrine” (which supposedly has been off of the books for over 20 years now in favor of the children’s best interest) and adding “shared parental responsibility” (which is already in place).

I remember about 10 years ago or so when the Associated Press called me to tell me our former (and late) Governor Lawton Chiles just signed into law a bill that changed the acronym of Florida’s Child Protective Services agency from Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) to the Department of Children and Families (DCF). My published response statewide was “A skunk is a skunk is a skunk…It still stinks!”

The new time-sharing schedule means a timetable that must be included in the parenting plan that specifies the time, including overnights and holidays, that a minor child will spend with each parent. IF developed and agreed to by the parents of a minor child (how many undiagnosed and untreated Borderline Personality Disorder mothers demand to litigate and not mediate?), it must be approved by the court. If the parents cannot agree (he he), the schedule shall be established by the court! Dads – Please do not be so naive that you think mother will keep you in the ball game “in the children’s best interests.”

The moral of the story is just because you changed the language in the statute doesn’t mean the typical loser – fathers – will garner equity-at-law. In my professional judgment, the results will remain the same, or perhaps worsen. Disneyworld “time-sharing” parenting time rights will still be the norm. You know the drill. Every other weekend, perhaps a few hours on Wednesday night. Every other birthday. Every other major holiday. Perhaps, six weeks in the summer.

Face it, Floridian fathers. You’re going to continue to get screwed, glued, and tatooed in Florida family law court unless you induce these well-meaning, well-intentioned lawmakers to draft legislation consistent with “real presumptive joint custody.” Please visit for a list of the states that have legislated presumptive joint, or actual joint custody.