Divorce or separation is a challenging process, especially when children are involved. Florida law refers to child custody as parental responsibility and time-sharing. Parental responsibility refers to the rights and responsibilities each parent will have with regard to their children, while time-sharing breaks down the details of how, when and where the children will spend time with each parent.
Unfortunately, many parents go into the legal proceedings not knowing much about this process, as well as how judges make these determinations. Here are a few things to understand about determining parental responsibility and time-sharing in Florida.
Sole vs. Shared Parental Responsibility
Judges grant sole parental responsibility, or sole custody, to one parent in extreme cases where shared responsibility could be detrimental to the well-being of the child. These situations include those involving a criminal conviction, domestic violence or abandonment, among others.
Shared parental responsibility, or joint custody, is the preferred option of Florida courts when possible. In these situations, both parents share the rights and responsibilities of raising the child.
Creating a Parenting Plan
Aside from determining parental responsibility, an important consideration is how the children will spend their time with each parent. This is largely determined by a parenting plan that the parents create and a court approves. Parenting plans should include the following, among other considerations:
- Detail how parents will share responsibility for tasks involved in raising their child
- Describe the time-sharing arrangement, which dictates the time the child will spend with each parent
- Express shared or sole responsibilities for critical matters and decisions in the child’s life, pertaining to health care, school and other activities
- Detail how the parents will communicate with the child
Depending on each family’s unique circumstances, parenting plans can include more detail as well. Particularly in situations where parents will share parental responsibility, having a comprehensive parenting plan in place can relieve a lot of uncertainty and allow the parents to focus on their child, rather than the logistics of co-parenting.
Parents who seek the best outcomes for their children should gather evidence to support their cases and work together with their former spouse or partner on a parenting plan that has the greatest benefits for their children.