What is parental responsibility?
Parental responsibility contemplates who will make important decisions regarding a child’s upbringing and welfare. This includes decisions regarding healthcare, education, extra-curricular activities, religion, etc. It is the policy of the State of Florida that parents’ share in the rights and responsibilities of raising their children. Accordingly, shared parental responsibility will be awarded in most cases. Shared parental responsibility requires that both parents confer with one another in making major decisions that affect the welfare of the minor child.
Does parental responsibility have to be shared?
In certain, rare circumstances, the court can order or the parties can agree to one parent having sole parental responsibility. In ordering sole parental responsibility, the court must find that shared parental responsibility would not be in the best interest of the child. Sole parental responsibility most often occurs when one parent has a history of drugs abuse, sexual or physical abuse, or other criminal or abusive activity.
What is time-sharing?
In 2008, the Florida Legislature changed many aspects of the family law statutes including the terminology that is used in family law cases. People have always used to term “child custody” when referring to the amount of time that each parent spends with their child or children. As of 2008, the term “child custody” is no longer used in Florida, and has been replaced with the term “time-sharing”. Therefore, what people have always thought of as “custody” is now “time-sharing”.
Does the mother have preference over the father as to the amount of time-sharing or parental responsibility?
It is the policy of the State of Florida that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved, and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of child rearing. This means that there is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child or for or against any specific time-sharing schedule when creating or modifying the parenting plan of the child.
Can we agree on a time-sharing schedule and the parental responsibilities of each parent?
In most circumstances the mother and father are permitted to agree on a time-sharing schedule and parental responsibility issues as long as the schedule is in the best interests on the minor child or children.
How does the time-sharing and parental responsibility agreement become official and enforceable?
If the mother and father have agreed on time-sharing arrangements and the division of parental responsibilities, the agreement must be put in writing and submitted to the judge for him or her to determine whether or not the agreement is in the children’s best interests. This agreement is usually called a “parenting plan”, and it lists the details of the time-sharing schedule, as well as details as to the parents’ respective responsibilities with respect to the minor children.
Once the judge has reviewed the “parenting plan” or other written agreement and has determined that the agreement is in the best interest of the child/ren, the judge will issue an order approving the agreement, and requiring the parties to comply with the agreement.
What if we cannot agree on a time-sharing schedule or parental responsibility?
If the mother and father cannot agree on a time-sharing schedule, then the judge will determine the details of the time sharing arrangement.
How does a judge determine the time-sharing schedule and other issues dealing with parental responsibility?
Do I need to hire a lawyer?
Once a judge has made a decision and issued an order on time-sharing or parental responsibility, it may be difficult to modify.
Even if the prior order on time-sharing and parental responsibility is able to be modified, the process is often times expensive, emotional and time-consuming. Furthermore, the legal issues surrounding parental responsibility and time-sharing can be complex and are extremely difficult to navigate if you are not trained in the law and legal processes.
This is why it is important to speak to an experienced family law attorney prior to going to court in a case involving time-sharing or parental responsibility. Likewise, it is important to speak to an experienced family law attorney prior to entering into any agreement involving time-sharing or parental responsibility.