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When do Courts Award Parental Rights to One Party?


In Florida, it is generally presumed that divorced parents will share parenting time, as it is thought that encouraging relationships with both parents is in a child’s best interests. Ideally, this would mean that a child would be able to spend roughly equal amounts of time with both parents. For this reason, granting sole parenting time to one parent is rare and difficult to achieve, as courts are wary of severely restricting or denying a parent’s ability to have access to his or her child. Courts are, however, willing to do so if there is evidence that the child’s welfare or safety is threatened. Even in these cases, a judge will only award sole custody if there is compelling evidence of detriment to the child. If you believe that your situation may qualify for an award of sole custody, it is critical that you contact a time-sharing attorney who can help protect your child’s well-being.

Parental Responsibility vs Parenting Time  

Florida stopped using the word custody a few years ago and instead divide parenting arrangements into two categories: parental responsibility and time sharing. The former refers to the authority to make major decisions related to healthcare, religion, and education on a child’s behalf, while the latter is used to describe the amount of time that each parent will have physical contact with the child.

Are Courts Willing to Limit One Parent’s Rights? 

In most cases, both parental responsibility and time sharing are split between a child’s parents so that each party will have a say in decision making, while also having access to the child on a regular basis. However, courts are willing to restrict a parent’s role in one area, but allow full participation in the other. In these cases, courts have historically been more open to limiting decision making authority over parenting time, as public policy in Florida specifically addresses the benefit of having a relationship with both parents. If, however, one parent failed to allow a child to participate in extracurricular activities or didn’t make reasonable medical decisions, a court would be more likely to honor a request to limit one parent’s decision making authority, although it would ultimately be guided by what would be in the child’s best interests.

Receiving sole rights to parenting time, on the other hand, is much more difficult to achieve and requires parents to provide substantial evidence of clear detriment to the child when he or she is exposed to the other parent. Examples of issues that have motivated courts to award sole responsibility to a single parent include:

  • A history of domestic violence or sexual abuse against either the other parent, the child, or another member of the household;
  • Neglect, such as a failure to provide food, medical care, and proper supervision;
  • Substance abuse that prevents the other parent from providing adequate care for the child; or
  • Dangerous mental illness that threatens the child’s safety.

Except in these specific circumstances, courts will rarely completely eliminate a parent’s rights, but will instead impose restrictions on parenting time and parental responsibility.

Get Legal Help Today  

Contact dedicated Fort Lauderdale time-sharing attorney Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. for a consultation at no charge. A member of our legal team can be reached at 954-945-7591 or via online message.



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