Parental Responsibility and Child Custody
If you and your spouse are contemplating divorce and have minor children, you will have to make difficult choices regarding your children including where they live and how decisions about their future will be made. To do this, the court will require you to create a parenting plan with your spouse. 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 children. 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 regarding the children. Some of these decisions include healthcare, medical treatment, extracurricular activities, and education. In most cases, Florida Law awards joint 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 must decide how the child’s time will be shared between both parents. Most commonly this is 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 cannot 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 factors the courts consider the following:
• Which parent is likely to facilitate a positive relationship between the child and the other parent.
• Which parent is likely to allow open and frequent access to the other parent and extended family members.
• The level of stability each household can provide.
• Length of time the child has lived in a stable environment and the desire to maintain continuity.
• Moral fitness of each parent.
• The mental and physical health of each parent.
• Prior domestic violence convictions of either parent.
There are many more factors, outlined in Florida Statute 61.13, that the court may look at when determining custody and timesharing. Agreeing on a time sharing plan can save a great deal of money and frustration. If the parties cannot agree it will be the courts job to evaluate the factors and develop a timesharing plan for the parties to follow.