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Parental Responsibility in a Florida Divorce

| Jun 2, 2021 | Divorce, Parental Responsibility, Parenting plan |

We often hear parents who are seeking a divorce use the term “child custody.” The fact of the matter is that the term custody is no longer used in Florida dissolution of marriage proceedings. Instead, the terms “parental responsibility” and “time-sharing” cover what used to be called custody.

The concept of parental responsibility covers matters of decision-making for the children. This would include decisions about the children’s education, healthcare, religious upbringing, and other responsibilities unique to the family involved. Time-sharing covers the schedule of when the children will be with each parent—nights, weekends, holidays, etc.

Most Final Judgments of Dissolution of Marriage include a parenting plan that has either been agreed upon by the parents or has been determined by the court. The parenting plan will determine parental responsibility and time-sharing. As it relates to parental responsibility, the court will determine whether it is in the best interests of the children that major decisions affecting the welfare of the children be made jointly or otherwise. If made jointly, this is usually referred to as “shared parental responsibility.” Alternatively, the plan may determine that it is in the best interests of the children that the parents confer and attempt to agree on the major decisions involving the children. If the parents are unable to agree, the authority for making major decisions regarding the children may be broken down by topic such as education, healthcare, etc. This is sometimes described as “shared parental responsibility with decision making authority.”

As sample parenting plan which includes shared parental responsibility with decision making authority might read like this:

It is in the best interests of the children that the parents confer and attempt to agree on the major decisions involving the children. If the parents are unable to agree, the authority for making major decisions regarding the children shall be as follows:

Education/Academic decisions:     Parent ______________

Non-emergency health care:         Parent ______________

Extra-curricular activities:             Parent ______________

Other:{Specify}:_____________  Parent ______________

Section 61.13, Fla. Stat. provides that every parenting plan must address the following:

1. Describe in adequate detail how the parents will share and be responsible for the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the child;

2. Include the time-sharing schedule arrangements that specify the time that the minor child will spend with each parent;

3. Designate who will be responsible for:

a. Any and all forms of health care. If the court orders shared parental responsibility over health care decisions, the parenting plan must provide that either parent may consent to mental health treatment for the child.

b. School-related matters, including the address to be used for school-boundary determination and registration.

c. Other activities such as extra-curricular activities; and

4. Describe in adequate detail the methods and technologies that the parents will use to communicate with the child (such as mobile phone, text, email, etc.).

When trying to establish an effective parenting plan which addresses parental responsibility, it is important to have the advice of an experienced family law attorney. The do-it-yourself version often overlooks an important matter that later comes back to present problems.

 

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