Unlike in other states, Florida no longer uses the terminology of “custody” when it comes to family law and determining a parental arrangement that serves the best interests of the child. The choice is deliberate — Florida law has replaced these traditional terms with “parental responsibility” and “timesharing” in order to promote shared parental responsibility whenever possible.
Some celebrity marriages serve as good examples of healthy shared parental responsibility, such as that of Madonna and Guy Ritchie, who recently attended their son’s bar mitzvah at the Kabbalah Center in New York.
In cases where parents are able to maintain amicable relations regarding the care of their children, Florida recognizes that a child benefits from a paradigm of shared parental responsibility, as opposed to referring to their parents as “primary” or “secondary” custodians or caregivers.
Joint decisions for parents with shared responsibility of their children
Joint decisions in shared parental responsibility arrangements can include everyday decisions, such as a child’s meals or mode of transportation, and more significant, longer-term choices, including:
- Primary residence
- Medical care
If there is reason for a judge to believe that shared responsibility is going to be harmful to a child, such as in cases involving domestic violence, then the judge may decide against such an arrangement in favor of sole parental responsibility. When sole parental responsibility is awarded, only one parent makes decisions regarding the child. The other parent may exercise timesharing rights.
While Florida law does not in theory privilege one parent over the other, it is important that Florida fathers take the initiative to protect their relationships with their children, and to preserve their timesharing and parental responsibility rights. Remain involved in your child’s life and make sure you are punctual and orderly in your court proceedings. Otherwise, a court may begin to look unfavorably upon your capacity to properly care for your child.
A Florida family law attorney and mediator can help you protect your paternal relationship with your child and foster a healthy shared parental responsibility plan.