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How Parental Responsibility is Determined in a Florida Divorce
If a divorce involves children, the parental responsibility for making decisions for the children must be considered. We are not talking about custody or time-sharing, but about decision making responsibility.
If the parents cannot come to an agreement regarding how decisions are to be made regarding major decisions for the children, such as health, education and the welfare of the children, then the court will make that decision.
Ideally, Florida courts would like both parents to share decision making responsibility equally, but this does not always work out. It usually takes very special l circumstances, for one parent to be awarded sole parental responsibility (decision-making authority) of the child.
Shared Parental Responsibility
Florida courts prefer shared responsibility – as long as it is in the best interest of the child. Shared parental responsibility means the parents will be jointly responsible for making major decisions for the child, including medical treatments, child care, and education.
The purpose of shared parental responsibility is to keep both parents active in a child’s life. Shared parental responsibility is the norm in Florida, regardless of the time-sharing the parties have with the child.
All cases which involve children must have a parenting plan which sets forth how the parents will make decisions for the children. This plan will discuss things like:
How and what daily responsibilities each parent will manage as part of raising the child.
A time-sharing agreement – which dictates what time or days the child will spend with each parent.
How the child can communicate with each parent.
Which parents are responsible for determining the child’s school, healthcare, and which of the two parents’ addresses will be used for school boundaries.
It is ideal that both parents agree to a parenting plan. In the event they cannot, the courts will have to dictate an arrangement based on the best interests of the child.
Courts also have the ability to award ultimate decision making authority for specific areas concerning the children to one parent. This might be considered when one parent has special knowledge in an area concerning a child’s education or medical issues.
Sole Parental Responsibility
Sole parental responsibility is very rare, but may be used when shared parental responsibility is not in the best interest of the child. When sole responsibility is issued, just one parent has the authority to make decisions on behalf of the child – without having to consult the other parent.
Sole parental responsibility is often issued when shared responsibility poses a risk to the child. The courts will determine several factors and request evidence proving shared responsibility is detrimental to the children and is not in the best interests of the child. Some reasons the court may approve sole custody include:
History of domestic violence
Sexual or child abuse
Evidence of neglect
The other parent has abandoned the child
Drug or alcohol abuse
Mental or physical health conditions
A parent does not have to be convicted of abuse or even arrested for domestic violence. As long as the other parent has evidence proving one of the scenarios above, the judge may award sole responsibility to just one parent.
Even if sole parental responsibility is issued to one parent, the other parent may still be awarded time-sharing – whether it is supervised or not. If, however, time sharing is not in the best interest of the child, the courts may not award any such provisions.
Need Help Determining Parental Responsibility? Contact a Family Law Attorney
Determining which type of parental responsibility route and a parenting plan is right for your case is not easy. An attorney can review your circumstances and assist you with your custody case.