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Parental Decision Making In Florida


Prior to 2017, Florida family law courts referred to child custody in two ways: as physical custody and legal custody. Six years ago, however, lawmakers made significant changes to the family law code, directing courts to instead create parenting plans in which two co-parents divided parenting time and parental responsibility. The former refers to the physical time that a child spends with each parent, while the latter involves responsibility for making decisions about the child’s welfare, healthcare, education, and religion. While time-sharing arrangements are predicated largely on the parents’ work schedules, the distance between the parents’ homes, and the childcare duties for which the parents have historically been responsible, parental responsibility is assessed a bit differently.

A Presumption of Shared Parental Responsibility 

As a result of a recent change to Florida’s family law, courts now presume that equal time-sharing is in a child’s best interests. This, however, has been the standard in regards to parental responsibility for years, where judges have been directed to presume that shared parental decision making is in a child’s best interests. The rationale behind this presumption is that it allows both of a child’s parents to remain involved in the most important aspects of his or her life. Even if a child spends the majority of his or her time with one parent, the other parent would still have an important role in the child’s upbringing.

What is Shared Parental Responsibility? 

When two parents share parental responsibility, they must confer and attempt to reach an agreement on major issues that affect their child’s welfare, such as the child’s:

  • Education;
  • Extracurricular activities;
  • Healthcare

Most parenting plans require parents to try and reach mutual agreements on these issues. If, however, two parents cannot reach such an agreement on a major issue, then a trial court will need to step in and resolve the matter. It’s important to note, however, that even when a court awards shared parental responsibility, it may also grant what is referred to as ultimate parental responsibility. This means that although the designated parent is required to confer with the other parent on these issues, he or she has final authority to make a decision on the issue.

Sole Parental Responsibility

The alternative to shared parental responsibility is known as sole parental responsibility and it means that one parent is designated to unilaterally make decisions on a child’s behalf without consulting the other parent. Courts, however, are generally wary of awarding sole parental responsibility at least on major issues and will only do so if one of the parents can show that an award of shared responsibility would not be in a child’s best interests. This typically only happens in cases where there is a history of domestic violence or concerns about the parent’s mental health.

Contact Our Fort Lauderdale Legal Team Today 

To speak with an experienced and compassionate Florida parental responsibility lawyer about what a shared decision making arrangement would entail, contact Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. at 954-945-7591 or send us an online message today.




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