In some child custody cases, alternative measures are taken to provide parents time with their children.
What is Supervised Time Sharing?
Sometimes, a family law judge will determine that a parent cannot be alone with a child. This can be for a myriad of reasons, for example the parent has alcohol or drug issues, the parent has anger issues or the parent has physically harmed the child in the past. Additionally, some parents are out of their child’s life for a period of time, often years, and is seeking to get back in the child’s life. The court sometimes determines that supervised time sharing is required in the beginning, so that a parent may re-establish a relationship with the child.
Often clients will tell me they want “Sole Custody” of their child. Unfortunately, I have to inform the parent that no such thing really exists under the Florida family laws. (The only way to completely remove another parent from the child’s life is when that parent has been found guilty of abuse, abandonment or neglect). Instead, I have to inform the parent that, if you believe the other parent is going to somehow harm the child, then you need to request supervised time sharing. The burden to get supervised time sharing is very high. Each parent has a strong constitutional right to parent their children. The florida family law court will only interfere with that right if they find there is some reasons to believe the parent will harm the child in some way. It is important that you discuss your case with a family law attorney if you think the other parent might need supervised time sharing or if you believe the other parent may harm the child.
If the court orders supervised time sharing, there are several ways the supervised time sharing can be implemented. If you are not afraid of your ex-spouse, then you may be the supervisor. The supervised visits could take place at a park, in a public place such as a fast food playground or other child friendly location. Additionally, if both parties agree, the court could order that another family member supervise the time sharing (such as a grandparent, aunt/uncle or other family member the minor child trusts). There are also private family supervisors that you can pay on an as needed basis to supervise the time sharing. I have utilized the private supervisors when both parents are high conflict and cannot be around each other without some type of incident occurring. There is also a facility called the Children’s Justice Center (at least in Hillsborough County) that provides supervised visitation for a very small fee. The Children’s Justice Center will provide regular updates regarding the supervised time sharing to the judge.
What is a Reunification Plan?
Usually, supervised time sharing does not last indefinitely. A recent appellate court case from the Third District Court of Appeals held that a family law judge must establish a reunification plan if it orders supervised time sharing. In Tzynder v. Edelsburg, the trial court found that Mr. Tzynder should have supervised time sharing one time per week. The family law appeals court found that was improper and stated that the final judgment failed to identify what steps Mr. Tzynder must take in order to reestablish unsupervised time sharing. The trial court must always set forth a reunification plan. What the reunification plan looks like will vary drastically with each set of case facts. In some, I have seen the court order that a parent must submit to random drug testing and alcohol counseling prior to having unsupervised time sharing. In others, I have seen a gradually increased schedule where a parent hasn’t seen their child in several years and needs to slowly establish a new relationship. Your reunification plan will be very specific and determined by the needs of your family.
If you have any questions regarding timesharing, reunification plans or require legal assistance in other areas of Family Law you may always contact Damien McKinney of The McKinney Law Group to discuss your case further. He can be reached by phone at 813-428-3400 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.