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A Guide to Parental Responsibilities in Divorce in Florida

Are you thinking about divorce in Florida? If so, then you should be aware that the State of Florida has certain requirements to file for dissolution of marriage, particularly when children are involved. The parties involved in divorce proceedings with minor children are required to complete the Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course prior to the court’s final judgment. Generally, the course can be taken on-line and you will get a Certificate to be filed with the court stating that you completed the course.

The courts have three options for parental responsibility:

  • Shared parental responsibility
  • Shared parental responsibility with ultimate decision-making
  • Sole parental responsibility

Shared parental responsibility – As the name suggests, shared parental responsibility (often called joint custody) is custody arrangement in which the parents share parenting duties and make decisions together. Both parents are responsible for making major decisions for the children, including child care, education, and medical treatment. Shared parental responsibility is the norm in Florida. The courts prefer both parents to be involved in their child’s upbringing.

Shared parental responsibility with ultimate decision-making – In certain situations, decisions in a particular area are given to one party and not the other, even though the parents must confer about the children in all other areas. For example, if one party believes in vaccinations and the other party does not, the court may designate one or the other to make health care decisions.

Sole parental responsibility – Sole parental responsibility (often called sole custody) is the plan in which only one parent has the authority to make decisions regarding medical issues, education, religious choices, and most of the day-to-day decisions for the child. This kind of responsibility is often issued when shared responsibility poses a risk to the child. Some of the key reasons why courts may approve sole parental responsibility include: history of domestic violence, child abuse, evidence of neglect, drug or alcohol abuse, mental and physical health condition of a parent, abandonment, etc.

The parental responsibility decision is made in the best interests of the children. Some of the key factors that determine the best interests of a child include:

  • Physical and mental health of both parents
  • Religious and cultural considerations
  • The wishes of the child (if the child is old or mature enough)
  • The requirement for the continuation of a stable home environment
  • For children with special needs, the way in which each parent addresses those needs
  • The age of the child
  • The ability of the child to adjust to changes in school or community
  • The relationship of the child with siblings and other members of the household
  • Emotional abuse directed at the child by one parent
  • Any pattern of domestic violence
  • Evidence of parental drug, alcohol, or child/sex abuse, etc.

If you are dealing with a child custody case, you will need an experienced Boca Raton divorce attorney who can work with you to get the best outcome.