In Florida the terms child custody, joint custody, visitation, and residential or non-residential parents are no longer used. Instead, Florida uses the term Shared Parental Responsibility, which is defined in Florida Statute § 61.046 (17) as “a court-ordered relationship in which both parents retain full parental rights and responsibilities with respect to their child and in which both parents confer with each other so that major decisions affecting the welfare of the child will be determined jointly.” This means that in Florida parents must share Parental Responsibility unless the Court finds that Shared Parental Responsibility would be detrimental to the child. The Courts will always look to see what the best interests of the child are and then measure what happens from there.
Courts encourage that both parents continue to be involved in the upbringing of the child despite no longer living together as a family unit (regardless of whether or not the parents were married). Maintaining a loving relationship with each parent is generally what is in the child’s best interest, but it also comes with many challenges. Two individuals who are no longer married (or no longer cohabitate) must continue to raise a child together while setting aside their personal feelings for each other. Through establishment of Shared Parental Responsibility also comes joint decision-making authority as it relates to the child’s welfare (health/medical and educational decisions). As part of Shared Parental Responsibility, both parents are required to communicate with each other when it relates to the health/medical and/or educational decisions of the child. If parents are unable to agree on these decisions, the parents may need to seek the Court’s help (through the filing of appropriate paperwork).
In some cases, Sole Parental Responsibility is what is in the child’s best interest because anything else would be detrimental to the child. Florida Statute § 61.046 (18) defines Sole Parental Responsibility as “a court-ordered relationship in which one parent makes decisions regarding the minor child.”
Whether it is Shared or Sole Parental Responsibility, each parent will also have a Time-sharing schedule (commonly known as visitation schedule) included as part of the Parenting Plan. Florida Statute § 61.046 (14) defines Parenting Plan as “a document created to govern the relationship between the parents relating to decisions that must be made regarding the minor child and must contain a time-sharing schedule for the parents and child. The issues concerning the minor child may include, but are not limited to, the child’s education, health care, and physical, social, and emotional well-being. In creating the plan, all circumstances between the parents, including their historic relationship, domestic violence, and other factors must be taken into consideration.”
Florida Statute § 61.046 (23) defines Time-sharing as “a timetable that must be included in the parenting plan that specifies the time, including overnights and holidays, that a minor child will spend with each parent.” The Time-sharing must either be agreed upon by the Parents or it will be established by the Court.
The Parenting Plan and Time-sharing schedule is a very important document that must comply with Florida law, be well thought out, and clearly drafted to avoid any potential problems in the future. There are many considerations each parent must consider when thinking about the future of raising a child in two separate households and the Parenting Plan is a crucial piece of the puzzle that will provide a road map for your family moving forward.
Because the process of starting over after a breakup is difficult and emotional, it is beneficial for parents to seek the assistance of an experienced attorney to help draft the Parenting Plan. Hiring a lawyer is an important decision and the lawyer you hire should be someone you trust, someone who helps you understand the law, your rights, and responsibilities, all while fighting for you every step of the way. Your family is unique and you can trust Marisol Cruz will tailor her legal representation based on your circumstances, and advocate for you. We look forward to helping you.