Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Child Custody

Florida family courts have ruled repeatedly that a parent cannot be ordered to have supervised timesharing without specified steps that lead to unsupervised timesharing. Additionally, a court cannot delegate timesharing decisions to one parent. These holdings are found in the recent appellate case Lightsey v. Davis, 4D18-2848 (Fla. 4th DCA March 6, 2019).

The trial court granted sole parental responsibility to the mother based on its findings that the father was not “engaged with his child”. Additionally, the court ordered the father’s timesharing would be at the sole discretion of the mother and that it would be supervised until the father “demonstrated that he is able to properly parent.” The final judgment did not specify how the father would show he was properly able to parent. The father appealed these rulings.

As to sole parental responsibility, this ruling was upheld by the appellate court where the father did not provide a transcript of the proceedings. Without the transcript, the appellate court was unable to make a determination as to whether or not the proceedings supported the father’s argument or the mother’s position. Therefore, the appellate court could only address clear errors that appeared on the face of the final judgment.

Turning to the father’s timesharing, the appellate court reversed since the terms were erroneous on the face of the judgment. The appellate court held “A trial court's failure to set forth any specific requirements or standards with which the parent must comply in order to reduce the timesharing restrictions — whether those restrictions constitute a total prevention of timesharing altogether or are only a limitation of timesharing—is error. ‘While the trial court need not 'set out every minute detail of the steps to reestablish unsupervised timesharing,' the parent must leave the courtroom 'knowing that if [they] satisfactorily accomplish[ ] relatively specific tasks, [they] will be able to reestablish unsupervised timesharing.' . The trial court must provide the father with that path.”

The appellate court further held, “A court may not delegate its responsibility to determine timesharing to a third party. [. . .] Because the court improperly delegated its authority to establish a timesharing schedule to the mother, the judgment was fundamentally erroneous.” Knowing your rights in your Florida child custody case is the first step toward an outcome that is in the best interest of your child. Contact a Miami child custody lawyer to go over your case and discuss the best way to move forward.