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Time-Sharing and Parental Responsibility

Parental ResponsibilityDecisions about Time-Sharing and Parental Responsibility are based on the best interests of the child, which is the legal standard in Florida in divorce and other family law cases for deciding children’s issues. As part of a family law case involving children, the parents or the court will come up with a “Parenting Plan” that addresses Time-Sharing and Parental Responsibility.

Parental Responsibility refers to who makes decisions about the major issues in a child’s life – e.g. school, religion, non-emergency medical decisions. The starting or default result is Shared Parental Responsibility, which means both parents have a right to be involved in and to make the decisions. There are some variations, where the parents have to consult but one parent has ultimate decision making authority for all or a particular issue, or one parent can have “Sole Parental Responsibility”, based on what’s best for the child, if it can be shown that the other parent’s involvement in decision making would be detrimental to the child.

Time-sharing is the schedule for when the child spends time with each parent, including how birthdays, holidays and vacations are divided.  Experts can be called on to make recommendations regarding a time-sharing schedule. If there are concerns regarding the safety or welfare of a child, the Judge can limit or restrict time-sharing (e.g. supervised visitation), and can appoint a “Guardian ad Litem” to evaluate the situation and report back to the court.

In addition to a time-sharing schedule, other important issues to focus on, depending on the case, include what are the logistics for pick-ups and drop-off? Can a parent travel out of the state or out of the country with the child? There is a relocation statute in Florida that addresses what happens if a parent wants to move more than 50 miles with the child, but what happens if a parent moves somewhere 20 miles from a current location? Shared parental responsibility requires the parents to agree regarding education, but the School Board could assign the child to a new school depending on which parent’s address is being used as the address for school designation. Sometimes the parties are ok with addressing these issues as they arise, but the point is to be sure to address whatever is important to you in the Parenting Plan, and come up with an arrangement that is good for the children and acceptable to both parties.

One of the benefits of using Collaborative Law to resolve children’s issues is that we have the benefit of the Mental Health Professional (MHP) to assist in addressing these issues and developing a parenting plan.  The MHPs I work with in these cases have significant expertise in children’s issues, and it is a significant value added feature in resolving the issues through Collaborative Law, rather than a legal process primarily between attorneys.

Some cases present emergencies that need to be addressed directly through the court.  Although my practice focuses on resolving matters outside of litigation, there are litigation attorneys with whom I work who will assist us at a court hearing in the event that is needed.  Please see my blog post, for a discussion of emergency orders and emergency hearings for children’s issues.

Call me at (954) 636-4798, or use the contact form, and we can discuss the Time-Sharing and Parental Responsibility issues in your case.

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