Parental Responsibility and Child Custody
In the event that you and your spouse are contemplating divorce and have minor children, you will have to make difficult decisions regarding your children including where they live and how choices about their future will be made. To do this, the court will require you to create a parenting plan with your husband or wife. A parenting plan is a document governing the roles, responsibilities and decision making authority of each party when making major decisions in the lives of their kids. The parenting plan also includes a timeshare schedule for each minor child.
Parental responsibility refers to the decision making authority of each parent when making important decision in regards to the children. Some of these choices include healthcare, medical treatment, education, and extracurricular activities. In most cases, Florida Law awards shared parental responsibility unless one party can prove it is not in the best interests of the child for parental responsibility to be shared.
In addition to parental responsibility, the parties are required to decide how the child’s time will be shared between both parents. This is usually referred to as child custody. However, Florida Law has renamed this issue and now refers to it as timesharing and visitation. These decisions will be outlined in a parenting plan. If the parties are not able to agree on a parenting plan the court will make the decision.
Generally, Florida courts will make custody and timesharing decisions based on a “best interests of the child” standard. Some of the factors that the courts consider include the following:
- Which parent is most likely to facilitate a positive relationship between the child and the other parent.
- Which parent is likely to permit open and frequent access to the other parent and other extended family members.
- The level of stability each household can give.
- Amount of time the child has lived in a stable environment and the desire to maintain continuity.
- Moral fitness of each parent.
- The physical and mental health of each parent.
- Prior domestic violence convictions of either parent.
There are many other factors, outlined in Florida Statute 61.13, that the court may also consider when determining custody and timesharing. Agreeing on a time sharing plan can save a great amount of money and frustration. If the parties can’t agree it will be the courts job to assess the factors and develop a timesharing plan for the parties to follow.