Shared Parental Responsibility in Florida

In Florida the law requires the court to order “shared parental responsibility” in every case “unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child.”

So essentially this means that you and your spouse will both retain full parental rights and responsibilities with respect to your child and that you both must confer with each other so that major decisions affecting the welfare of your child will be determined jointly.

In turn a Parenting Plan is required in all cases involving time-sharing with minor children, even when timesharing is not in dispute.

picture of reminder of a parent teacher conference

Creating a Parenting Plan

A parenting plan is the written document known as a ‘Parenting Plan Agreement’ that outlines how both you and your spouse each will fulfill your “shared parental responsibility’ after your divorce.  It must include a time-sharing schedule which break downs the time-sharing arrangement each of you will have.  It also will include the type of parental rights and responsibilities  that you each will have with respect to making decisions for issues in a child’s life.

You will submit the parenting plan to the court for review. The court determines all matters relating to parenting and time-sharing of each minor child  in accordance with the best interests of the child. (Click Here for Best Interest of  the Child Factors) The court will take into account many considerations including your historic relationship, domestic violence and any other factors that are considered in the best interest of the child.

At a minimum, the Parenting Plan must describe in adequate detail:

  • How you and your ex-spouse will share and be responsible for the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the child(ren),
  • The time-sharing schedule arrangements that specify the time that your child(ren) will spend with each of you
  • A designation of who will be responsible for any and all forms of health care and school-related matters
  • The methods and technologies that the parents will use to communicate with the child(ren).

What is time-sharing in Florida?

Time-sharing” is the legal term that Florida recently created to describe the amount of time that each parent spends with a child following a divorce. In the Florida Statutes “time-sharing” replaces what used to be referred to as “custody” or “visitation.”

The reason behind going from the terms of “custody” and “visitation” to “time-sharing” is to reflect that most parents (ideally) “share time” with their children with the other parent and do not merely “visit” their child.

A Parenting Plan Can Help in Reducing Conflict

When children are involved in divorce,  conflict can easily rear it’s ugly head. This can result in long-term emotional problems for your child. By setting out clear co-parenting guidelines and expectations a well thought out shared parenting plan can help to reduce future conflict. If you and your spouse can make it a priority to cooperate with each other it will benefit everyone in your family.

happy son and father playing in grass

Parenting Plans are Not One Size Fits All

Every family has unique circumstances so there is not one cookie cutter parenting plan for every family.  One, you both need to think about your child’s relationship to each of you. For example your child may be more comfortable staying with one parent than the other, so you may have to be flexible and agree to spend either more or less time with the child.

Questions You Should Ask Before You Begin

  • How old is the child?
  • How mature is the child?
  • What is the child’s personality? Playful, Social, Withdrawn, Shy, Active?
  • What is the intensity level when they are mad? When they are happy?
  • How do they handle transition or change? (a new bed, new food, etc)
  • Is your child more attached to one parent than the other? If so how strongly?
  • Does your child have any special needs?
  • What are the child’s relationships with siblings and friends?
  • Do you and your spouse live close enough for frequent visits?
  • Do you or your spouse have any plans to move out of the city or state?
  • How flexible is your schedule?
  • Can you be consistent with your parenting time?
  • Will you need childcare and what will be the schedule?
  • How will you and your spouse meet when it is time for the exchange?
  • What kind of transportation will be used?
  • Do you and your spouse communicate well? Are you cooperative with each other?
  • Do you belong to any religion? If so how do you practice it as a family?
  • Has there been any domestic violence in your family?
  • Do either you or your spouse abuse any substances?
  • Do either of you have a mental illness?
  • What is your realistic availability to care for your child and meet their needs?

Domestic Violence and Child Abuse

It is Florida’s public policy that both you and your spouse share in the responsibility of raising your child and that your child has frequent and continued contact with both of you unless it is determined that doing so would be detrimental to the child. The court will consider evidence of domestic violence or child abuse as evidence of detriment to the child whether or not there is a conviction of any offense. This also includes evidence sexual violence, child abandonment or child neglect.

If this evidence is accepted by the court then it is considered a rebuttable presumption and that this is detrimental to the child. If the presumption is not rebutted after the convicted parent is advised by the court that the presumption exists, shared parental responsibility, including time-sharing with the child, and decisions made regarding the child, may not be granted to the convicted parent.

picture of gavel and handcuffs & picture of scared child hiding in bedroom

Do I Need a Lawyer When Creating and Filing a Parenting Plan?

Parenting plans can be created and filed without a lawyer. However, keep in mind there are times when a qualified family law attorney is absolutely necessary. If you or your spouse cannot agree on who has what responsibility and a time-sharing schedule then an attorney is needed to sort through the issues. This is especially important when either you or your spouse believes that shared responsibility will be detrimental to the child.  And because Florida Law by default requires ‘Shared Responsibility’ of both parents,  you must prove to the court why this would be detrimental to your child.

If you do decide to create and file your parenting plan agreement to the courts yourself, we recommend you use resources available on the web specific to Florida such as parenting plan templates and examples.