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Shared parental responsibility in Florida custody cases

Parents undergoing a child custody dispute can expect that most family courts will assign parents shared responsibility for their children, even when one parent may have primary residential or physical custody. Custody decisions encompass more than just determining with which parent a child will primarily live. It also involves courts determining how major decisions that affect the children's lives will be made.

In most cases, courts will order the parents to share parental responsibility. This means that parents must confer with one another when making major decisions regarding the children. In other words, both parents will have a say in where the child will attend school, what doctor the child will see, whether the child will receive counseling and in what religion, if any, the child will be raised.

In rare cases, courts may award sole parental responsibility to one parent. This occurs in situations in which the court determines shared responsibility would harm the child or children. Examples of cases in which sole responsibility might be ordered are ones in which domestic violence or child abuse exist, making shared responsibility impossible.

For most people, though, shared responsibility is what they should expect. With keeping that in mind, parents should propose parenting plans that take this into account. Parents should understand that the courts will expect them to be able to confer with one another in a civil manner, always keeping their child's best interests in mind over their own. In some child custody disputes, a parent may wish to consult with a family law attorney, especially if he or she believes that shared parental responsibility could potentially harm the child.

Source: The Florida Bar, "Divorce In Florida Pamphlet", October 18, 2014

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