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Can I be Granted Sole Parental Responsibility for My Child?


In 2008, Florida lawmakers eliminated the concept of sole custody in an effort to help both of a child’s parents build meaningful relationships with that child. Now, custody is divided into two categories: parenting time and parental responsibility. The former refers to the amount of time that each parent actually spends with a child, while the latter involves determining how much decision-making power each parent will have when it comes to their child’s care.

Since Florida did away with sole custody in the state, courts have proven reluctant to award sole parental responsibility to only one parent. While they may cut back on a child’s time with a parent, they are usually reluctant to take all decision-making power away from either party. If, however, you believe that doing so is in your child’s best interests, you may have options. Please call our experienced Fort Lauderdale child visitation and time-sharing attorneys to learn more.

What is Sole Responsibility?

If a court awards sole parental responsibility to one parent, then it has effectively decided that only that parent will have a role in making major decisions about their child’s life. This includes decisions about:

  • The child’s cultural and religious upbringing;
  • Healthcare and medical matters;
  • How and where the child will be educated;
  • The child’s travel plans;
  • The child’s living arrangements, as well as relocation; and
  • Changing the child’s name.

Courts are generally wary of taking away a parent’s say in this type of major decision-making. Furthermore, even if a court does decide that sole responsibility is in a child’s best interests, it could still award that parent with visitation.

Awarding Sole Responsibility

Courts are directed to go into child custody matters with the mindset that shared parental responsibility is in a child’s best interests, so if a parent wants sole responsibility, he or she will need to convince a judge that doing so is appropriate. This will generally be an uphill battle, but parents who have evidence of the following are usually in a better position to receive an award of sole parental responsibility:

  • The other parent’s history of drug or alcohol abuse;
  • A history of physical violence;
  • The other parent’s financial problems; or
  • The other parent’s behavioral disorder, or poor mental health.

Ultimately, the parent seeking sole parental responsibility will need to prove that the other parent is not competent to make childcare-related decisions. This in turn, will require strong documentation of the other parent’s ongoing problems. Even when a court does not deem sole parental responsibility to be in a particular child’s best interests, it could be willing to give one parent more decision-making power than the other. A judge could, for instance, give the petitioning parent the tie-breaking decision vote in situations where both parties are unable to reach a consensus on the child’s religion, education, or living situation.

Consult With an Experienced Florida Child Visitation and Time-Sharing Attorney

Dedicated visitation and time-sharing lawyer Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. has dedicated her career to family law and helping clients with a wide range of custody-related matters. For help with your own questions, please call our Fort Lauderdale office at 954-945-7591 today.


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