Child Custody & Visitation – Marital Settlement Agreements in Florida

The trial court may disregard the parent’s agreed upon time-sharing agreement, if it is not in the best interests of the children. “Prior to entry of the final judgment, the former wife filed a motion to set aside the MSA and parenting plan, alleging that the MSA was invalid and unenforceable because…As to the parenting plan, the former wife alleged that it was no longer in the children’s best interests to reside with the former husband…A court is not bound by an agreement of parents regarding child support, custody, or visitation. Higgins v. Higgins, 945 So. 2d 593, 596 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006). As our sister court stated: ‘[i]t is undisputed, and should be indisputable, that a trial court’s responsibility to the child cannot be abdicated to any parent, any expert. That heavy responsibility mandates that a court is not bound by any agreement between parents, nor by the opinions of any expert or group of experts.’ Lane v. Lane, 599 So. 2d 218, 219 (Fla. 4th DCA 1992); see Feliciano v. Feliciano, 674 So. 2d 937 (Fla. 4th DCA 1996) (confirming that trial court is not bound by agreement regarding child support, custody, and visitation where it determines that it is not in best interests of children). Instead, the trial court is required to ‘determine all matters relating to parenting and time-sharing of each minor child of the parties in accordance with the best interests of the child….’ §61.13(2)(c), Fla. Stat. (2010); see Jones v. Jones, 674 So. 2d 770, 774 (Fla. 5th DCA 1996) (reiterating that ‘best interests of the children are to govern the custody decision, regardless of any stipulation between the parties’). Le v. Nguyen, 37 Fla. L. Weekly D1604 (Fla. 5th DCA July 6, 2012)

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