Florida Child Visitation Guidelines

The Florida child visitation guidelines are suggested minimums to ensure the child maintains a close and continuing relationship with both parents. You have a legal right to request parenting time far exceeding every other weekend, and the O’Mara Law Group is committed to helping you maximize your parenting time.

Written and edited by our team of expert legal content writers and reviewed and approved by Attorney Mark O’Mara

Content last updated on: March 28, 2024

Florida law refers to visitation as parenting time to acknowledge that neither parent is a mere visitor but an active participant in the child’s upbringing. Each visit is known as parenting time, and the visitation schedule is known as time-sharing. The family court encourages parents to work out a time-sharing agreement outside of court. 

If you cannot reach an agreement, the court may order you to participate in a formal or informal dispute resolution process, such as mediation. If you cannot agree, the court will determine your parenting time schedule. This may result in you receiving less parenting time than you wished.

Our experienced divorce lawyers at the O’Mara Law Group have a long track record of successfully helping parents craft reasonable time-sharing agreements that allow both parents to avoid feeling they are missing out on the joys of parenting. 

If your ex refuses to be reasonable, we will skillfully and powerfully present your case in court to ensure you receive the quality time you desire with your child.

Why is the O’Mara Law Group the best choice?

Our dedicated and compassionate child custody attorneys understand the bond parents have with their children, and we are committed to ensuring that a divorce does not result in a divorce from your child. Our satisfied clients enjoy fulfilling relationships with their children post-divorce because we fight to win them the parenting time they need. 

We accomplish this by using our decades of experience to skillfully diffuse tensions and negotiate visitation agreements between parents who both want the best for their children. Our founder, Mark O’Mara, has the following credentials that uniquely qualify him to handle complex visitation disputes:

Mark Rabinowitz has been Board Certified in Marital and Family Law in Florida since 1999. He has served on the Marital and Family Law Certification Committee of The Florida Bar, and has served as a member of the Family Law Rules Committee.

How are Florida visitation schedules determined?

The Florida courts highly favor parental agreements. If the parents cannot agree about time-sharing, the court may order mediation or parent coordination. The parties can also choose these dispute resolution options voluntarily.  

If an agreement still cannot be reached, the court may order visitation based on the Florida Title IV-D Standard Parenting Plan. This plan provides suggested minimum visitation times, which the court may adopt entirely or in part, based on such individual factors as the following:

What are Florida’s Standard Visitation Guidelines?

The Florida Standard Parenting Time Plan sets forth the following visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent:

Many parents on this schedule feel more like an occasional visitor in their child’s life than a parent. This feeling underscores the importance of reaching an agreement with the other parent outside of court, if possible. Negotiating successful agreements is an important skill set of our attorneys at the O’Mara Law Group.

If the parties cannot reach a pre-court agreement, our attorneys know what it takes to demonstrate to the court that your wishes represent the best interest of the child. Our talented lawyers can present your case in the most favorable light possible in court, ensuring you receive a schedule that preserves your special parent-child bond.

Supervised Visitation in Florida

Supervised visitation is limited to rare cases in which the child’s safety would be in jeopardy if left alone with the parent, including an imminent risk that the parent will remove the child from the state. Even when the court imposes supervised visitation, the arrangement is often temporary until the risk has abated. The parent under supervision must pay for the cost of supervision.

How Joint and Full Custody Impact Child Visitation Guidelines

Florida family courts generally award joint legal custody equally to both parents with a time-sharing schedule allowing both parents to see the child at least as often as provided in the Florida Standard Parenting Plan. Legal custody refers to the decision-making authority in the child’s life. Florida law refers to legal custody as parental responsibility. 

A parent generally only receives full custody if the other parent is incarcerated or the court has determined a continuing relationship with the parent would harm the child. One parent can possibly receive full parental responsibility while both parents receive parenting time.

A parent may receive full custody if the other parent is unfit for visitation. In that case, the unfit parent will only receive supervised visitation or, in the most serious cases, no visitation at all.

How Does Florida Enforce Child Visitation Laws?

The parenting plan is legally binding after the court ratifies a parenting plan agreement or issues an order. Failure to honor the time-sharing schedule can result in legal consequences and could adversely impact the violating parent’s time with the child in the future. 

In addition, a parent cannot modify a time-sharing schedule without first obtaining approval from the court. You cannot relocate with the child without court approval. You must not violate the schedule even if the other parent fails to pay child support. 

If you are paying child support and the other parent violates the time-sharing schedule, you must continue paying support. However, a child support lawyer can help you take the other parent to court for violating the time-sharing arrangement.

A parent generally only receives full custody if the other parent is incarcerated or the court has determined a continuing relationship with the parent would harm the child. One parent can possibly receive full parental responsibility while both parents receive parenting time.

A parent may receive full custody if the other parent is unfit for visitation. In that case, the unfit parent will only receive supervised visitation or, in the most serious cases, no visitation at all.

Consequences of Violating Visitation Orders

A parent may be subject to the following legal consequences for failing to adhere to a court-ordered parenting plan:

The court also may order the violating parent to make the child available for extra parenting time to compensate you for the time missed.

How to File for Visitation Rights in Florida

Visitation is the time-sharing portion of the parenting plan. It is usually determined during a divorce or custody proceeding. An unmarried biological father may also file a petition for time-sharing. The first step is to contact a qualified family law attorney with experience handling complex child custody cases. We can file your petition and help you negotiate an agreement with the other parent.

Dispute Resolution

After either parent initiates a divorce proceeding or files a custody petition, dispute resolution begins. Our attorneys have been very successful in helping parents reach parenting plan agreements outside of court that serve both parents better than the Standard Parenting Plan.

The court will encourage and support parental agreement. If necessary, the court will order mediation. As a Florida Supreme Court-Certified Family Mediator and certified Collaborator, Mark O’Mara has the skillset needed to facilitate this process.

A mediator is simply a neutral party that helps the parents communicate and reach a time-sharing agreement on their own terms. 

In highly contentious situations, it may be necessary to transition to parenting coordination, a formal dispute-resolution process in which the parenting coordinator is more active in the negotiations between parents and has limited authority to make recommendations and decisions.

Going to Court

If you reach an agreement, your attorney can add the written agreement to your parenting plan and file it with the court. If you cannot agree, your attorney can file a proposed parenting plan to the court. Our lawyers will craft a plan that gives you the best possible terms likely to be approved by the court. 

Once the orders are issued, they become legal and binding.

Can the visitation schedule be modified?

A modification to the visitation schedule can only be made with permission from the court. Permission is only granted if a material, unanticipated, and substantial change in your circumstances warrant the modification. 

The court will not modify the schedule just because one or both parents dislike it. This is why having one of our skilled child custody lawyers on your side from the beginning is so important.

Qualifying Reasons for Modification

The court may grant a child custody modification as a result of the following changes in circumstances:

Time-Sharing Modification Process

Making changes to the time-sharing schedule before getting permission from the court will be regarded as non-compliance unless it is to protect yourself or the child from domestic violence. You must do the following BEFORE making any changes:

You should not attempt this process without the assistance of a reputable family law attorney. You need an attorney on your side to help you forge an agreement with the other parent and, if necessary, present your case in the most favorable light to the court. The last thing you need is the leave your time with your child at the court’s mercy.

Once the court rules on your modification request, the order, including any changes, becomes legally binding and permanent unless another unanticipated, material, and substantial change in circumstances warrants a subsequent modification.

Grandparent Rights to Visitation in Florida

Florida grandparents, step-grandparents, and great-grandparents have the right to petition the court for visitation under limited circumstances, which include the following:

It is important to note that Florida law does not entitle grandparents to petition the court for visitation if both parents are living and active in the child’s life, even in the case of a divorce.

When considering grandparent visitation, the court will consider the grandparent’s previous relationship with the child, the reasons a parent wishes to deny visitation, the home environment of the grandparents, and how the best interests of the child will be served.

The court must refer the case to formal and informal mediation services when the family is unable to reach an agreement.

Florida Child Visitation FAQs

Below are answers to the questions we frequently receive about child visitation in Florida.

Can you deny visitation to the non-custodial parent in Florida?

You can only deny visitation if the denial complies with a court order. You cannot deny the other parent time-sharing that has been ordered by the court. If you have an emergency reason to deny visitation, such as the threat of violence, you must file an emergency petition with the court.

Can a child refuse to visit the other parent?

A child is not legally entitled to refuse visitation. However, if the child has safety concerns, an emergency petition can be filed to modify the parenting plan. In addition, if the child has reached an age at which he or she can reasonably express preferences, the court may consider modifying the petition based on those preferences. Although the child’s preferences are important, they are not the only consideration.

How does a father get visitation rights in Florida?

If you are an unmarried biological father, you have the right to petition the court for custody and visitation. However, you must establish paternity by completing genetic testing and submitting the result to the court. After paternity is established, it is a father’s right to receive consideration for custody.

The child custody laws in Florida require the family court to give equal consideration to the father and mother for all matters pertaining to child custody, including visitation. There is no presumption in favor of the mother.

What happens if a parent fails to show up for visitation?

Sometimes unforeseen circumstances occur on a one-time basis. In these cases, you should make a reasonable allowance. However, if it becomes a regular occurrence, you can petition the court for a modification based on non-compliance. 

It may be possible to get sole custody if the court determines the other parent’s failure to adhere to the parenting plan demonstrates a disregard for the best interests of the child. 

If you are unable to maintain the visitation schedule due to changes in your work schedule or other unanticipated, material, and substantial changes in circumstances, you should request a modification as soon as possible and adhere to the parenting plan until the court approves the changes.

It is important to communicate with the other parent about changes in your schedule and try to reach an agreement that can be ratified by the court.

The child custody laws in Florida require the family court to give equal consideration to the father and mother for all matters pertaining to child custody, including visitation. There is no presumption in favor of the mother.

The O’Mara Law Group Is Ready to Help

If you are facing a custody battle in a contested divorce or as an unmarried father in Orlando or Lakeland, the O’Mara Law Group can help you achieve the best possible outcome for you and your child. We are one of Florida’s leading child custody law firms with unmatched experience and client satisfaction. Contact us today for a confidential case review.

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