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What Is Parental Responsibility?


For many divorcing couples, child custody ends up being one of the most hotly contested issues that they will face, which is why it’s so important for parents who are thinking about divorce to have a thorough understanding of what these kinds of determinations will entail. One of the most important distinctions to make early in the process is the difference between parenting time and parental responsibility. The first term used to be known as visitation and refers to how much time a child spends with each parent, while the latter is used to describe how parents must divide decision-making responsibility for their child once the divorce is finalized. This can be a difficult distinction to make, so we’ve included a bit more information on parental responsibility and the role it could play in your own parenting plan.

Types of Parental Responsibility 

In Florida, the term “parental responsibility” is used to refer to a parent’s obligation to make decisions about their child’s physical and mental health, religion, and education. In Florida, courts presume that an equal share of responsibility for making these decisions is in a child’s best interests, which means that from the outset of child custody proceedings, most parents can expect to play the same role in making major decisions about their child’s medical care, where they will attend school, and whether they will attend religious services. Shared parental responsibility, however, isn’t the only type of parental responsibility arrangement in Florida, where a court could alternatively order:

  • Shared parental responsibility with ultimate decision-making authority, which means that both parents will share responsibility for making decisions about the child’s care, but one parent is granted the ultimate authority to make a final decision in the event of a disagreement; and
  • Sole parental responsibility, where the court grants one parent sole authority to make major decisions about the child’s life.

As we mentioned previously, courts are most likely to require a shared parental responsibility arrangement. However, if there are concerns about one parent’s mental state or substance abuse, or if there are allegations of abuse, a judge could award parental responsibility to only one parent.

Modifying Parental Responsibility 

Parental responsibility arrangements are set in stone once a divorce is finalized and the parenting plan becomes a legally enforceable court order. This does not mean, however, that it isn’t possible to modify parental responsibility at a later date. In fact, doing so can be achieved after a significant change in circumstances or a major change in time-sharing. A court will, however, only make such a change if doing so is ultimately in the child’s best interests.

Set Up a Consultation Today 

Navigating the child custody laws in Florida can be complicated, so if you have questions about your own parental rights and obligations, including your right to make decisions for your child’s well-being, it’s important to work with an experienced lawyer who can address your concerns. Call dedicated Fort Lauderdale shared parental responsibility lawyer Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. for help with your own custody-related questions.


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