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Making Major Decisions When You Share Legal Custody


Just because two parents separate or divorce does not mean that they will no longer need to work together to co-parent effectively. Doing so will require the implementation of a parenting plan, which in turn, will divide not only parenting time, or how much time a child spends with each parent, but also parental responsibility, or responsibility for making childcare-related decisions. In prior years, the latter was known as legal custody and dictated how two parents made decisions for their children.

In most cases, even when a court decides to award primary time sharing to one parent, it still prefers to award some sort of shared parental responsibility, to ensure that both of a child’s parents play a part in making major decisions on the child’s behalf. When it comes to medical care, education, religion, and other major issues in your child’s life, it is critical to have a thorough understanding of who has the authority to make those decisions.

Making Decisions Together

When a court awards shared parental responsibility to two parents, both will need to work together to reach major decisions about a child’s:

  • Medical care;
  • Educational needs;
  • Religious instruction;
  • Cultural upbringing; and
  • Childcare.

Parents who share parental responsibility must communicate and agree to a plan when making these kinds of decisions for their child. A parent who unilaterally makes a decision, like changing a child’s school or seeking non-emergency medical care without the other parent’s acquiescence,  will have violated the parenting plan and could face significant repercussions from the court, including a modification of the custody agreement.

If You Cannot Reach an Agreement

Couples who share parental responsibility, but who cannot agree on the aforementioned issues, can’t take any action without first resolving the problem. If this cannot be achieved outside of court, then parents can take the matter to a judge, who will be tasked with making a determination that is in a child’s best interests. If, for instance, two parents were unable to decide where their children should go to school, the court would address a number of factors before making the decision, including:

  • The child’s adjustment to his or her current school;
  • The distance between the school and the parents’ homes;
  • The child’s specific interests or needs;
  • The cost of schooling;
  • How responsibility for transporting the child to and from school would be shared; and
  • The child’s opinion, if he or she is deemed mature enough to have a reasoned opinion.

Of course, courts much prefer parents to reach an out-of-court agreement on these issues, as litigation can be time-consuming, expensive, and stressful for the child.

Schedule an Appointment Today

If you and your former partner share parental responsibility for your child, but you cannot agree on an issue regarding your child’s education or medical care, set up a meeting with dedicated Florida shared parental responsibility lawyer Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. today. We can help you gain a better understanding of your custody responsibilities. Call us at 954-945-7591 to learn more.




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