In 2011, a Florida bill officially renamed child custody and visitation to parental responsibility and time-sharing. Authorities may have hoped the switch would minimize legal battles over child custody, particularly regarding whether a parent would be designated as the primary or secondary parent. However, the core approach is the same, especially regarding the best interest of the child standard.
Under the new approach, both parents may share legal, or parental responsibility for a child. This means that big picture decisions, such as educational programs, medical procedures, or other lifestyle decisions, must be made jointly. In practical terms, the parents may have to notify each other of these upcoming events, such as doctor’s appointments. A court may also provide a tie-breaking method; in the even the parents cannot agree over a certain decision.
Parenting time arrangements, or visitation, can be flexible, and are decided separately of parental responsibility. The time arrangement may also impact parental responsibility regarding smaller-scale decisions. For example, the parties to a divorce could agree that whichever parent is spending time with the child could decide any issues involving the child’s daily routine.
In some instances, a parent may try to deny the other parent’s access to or decision-making control over a child. However, Florida courts generally start with the presumption that it is in a child’s best interest to have a relationship with both parents. Thus, it would be only in rare cases where a court would cut off a parent from his or her child.
Finally, the court's paramount interest is with the child. Thus, if a parent is struggling with mental health issues or some other limitation, the court may agree to supervised visits. To learn more about these and other child custody issues, check out our firm’s website.
Source: FindLaw, “Florida Child Custody Laws,” copyright 2017, Thomson Reuters