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What Is Shared Parental Responsibility?


In Florida, lawmakers started moving away from terms like “custody” a few years ago, instead opting for the assignment of parenting time and parental responsibility. While the former refers to the time that children actually spend with each parent, the latter involves how decision-making responsibility for a child will be shared by his or her parents after divorce.

Sole Parental Responsibility

Sole parental responsibility, which used to be known as sole custody, is when one parent is given legal authority to make decisions about a child’s care without input from the other parent. This covers minor decisions made on a day-to-day basis, like when the child goes to bed and what his or her diet will be like to major decisions, such as where the child will attend school and whether he or she will observe certain religious holidays. Generally, courts are wary of awarding sole parental responsibility, as it is thought to be in a child’s best interests for both parents to be involved in his or her raising. Judges do, however, award sole parental responsibility in cases where shared responsibility would be harmful to the child. In making this decision, courts will consider evidence of abuse, neglect, abandonment, and domestic violence.

Shared Parental Responsibility

Unlike sole parental responsibility, shared parental responsibility (formerly known as joint custody) exists when both parents are involved in the decision-making process. This means that parents must communicate with each other and make joint decisions about the child’s welfare, including:

  • The location of the child’s primary residence;
  • Where the child will attend school;
  • The child’s religious upbringing; and
  • The type of medical and dental care the child will receive.

Judges generally presume that some sort of shared parental responsibility is in a child’s best interests. How this division looks, however, will vary depending on a family’s circumstances. In some cases, for instance, courts will consider the desires of the parents, giving one ultimate responsibility for certain aspects of a child’s welfare, like his or her religious upbringing. In other cases, the responsibilities will be divided equally between the parents.

Deciding Between Sole and Shared Parental Responsibility

When making a decision about parental responsibility, courts are directed to look first to a child’s best interests. What qualifies as being in a child’s best interests involves a further assessment of:

  • The parents’ physical and mental health;
  • The child’s home and school records;
  • The proximity of the parents’ homes and how much traveling the child would have to do in custody exchanges;
  • How long the child has lived in his or her current residence and the consequences of changing that living situation;
  • Whether the parents have shown a willingness to provide the child with a consistent routine;
  • Who was the child’s primary caretaker prior to divorce;
  • The child’s specific physical and emotional needs and each parent’s ability to meet those needs; and
  • The child’s preference if he or she is mature enough to have a reasoned opinion.

For an assessment of how these factors could affect your own time-sharing and parental responsibility arrangement upon divorce, reach out to our legal team today.

Call a Dedicated Florida Shared Parental Responsibility Attorney

To speak with a dedicated Fort Lauderdale shared parental responsibility lawyer about your own custody arrangements, call Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A.  at 954-945-7591 today.




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