Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Child Custody

When two parents live in different states, a Florida parenting plan must take into account how the parties will handle travel in order to effectuate timesharing. Additionally, the parenting plan will specify how parties are able to travel within the United States and to foreign countries. In a recent appellate case R.B. v. B.T., 2D17-2587 (Fla. 2d DCA 2018), the father appealed an order that restricted his timesharing to only two locations, effectively denying him the right to travel outside of the country or to non-specified states with the parties’ child.

The parties had what was described as an acrimonious relationship. Before their child was born, both parties lived in Texas. Shortly before the child’s birth, the mother relocated to Florida where she had family. The child was then born and raised in Florida while the father remained in Texas. The father subsequently filed a paternity action, requesting timesharing.

After a hearing on his petition, the trial court entered an order establishing a parenting plan which allowed the father timesharing one weekend per month prior to the child turning five. Once the child turned five, the parenting plan specified that the father could have timesharing two weekends per month, with one weekend being exercised in St. Petersburg, Florida and the other weekend being exercised in either St. Petersburg or Austin, Texas. Thus, according to the plain wording of this order, the father would not be able to travel outside of these cities with the child during his monthly timesharing.

The appellate court reversed this provision of the trial court’s order, holding, “While a trial court has broad discretion to restrict visitation when necessary to protect the welfare of the children, restrictions on visitation should be supported by some evidence in the record showing that they are necessary. [. . .] Here, the final judgment contains no factual findings that establish the necessity of restricting the Father's time-sharing with his child to either St. Petersburg or Austin, nor could it as no evidence was presented on this issue at the hearing.”

A Florida long-distance parenting plan should contain specific and careful language to ensure that a child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents as is the public policy of this state. If you need help crafting a long-distance parenting plan that is in the best interest of your child, contact a Florida child custody lawyer for a consultation.