Who Will Make the Decisions Regarding the Children in a Florida Divorce?

When going through a Florida divorce including minor children, parents are faced with three primary issues.  These include designating the parental responsibility rights of the parents, designing a time sharing schedule between the parties and the minor children and establishing the child support obligation.  In all instances, parents involved in a divorce should approach each issue by ensuring the best interests of the minor children are protected.

Often times a challenging issue for parents to understand is how the court will assess the decision making or parental responsibility roles of the parties in regard to their children.  Florida Statute 61.13 provides that "the court shall order that the parental responsibility for a minor child be shared by both parents unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child."  Thus, in most circumstances the parents will share the decision making responsibilities for the children. 

When moving through the divorce process and creating a parenting plan, the parties, along with their family law attorney, work to reach an amicable settlement on the terms of parental responsibility.  Areas of responsibility may include education, health care, and any other responsibilities that are unique to a particular family.  Florida law provides a presumption that the parental responsibility for minor children should be shared by both parents.  As such, this area of the divorce has high probability of the parties reaching an amicable settlement.

In the event the parents cannot reach a settlement on the terms of parental responsibility than the court will make the final decision.  Pursuant to Florida Statute 61.13, the court, at a final hearing, may consider the expressed desires of the parents and may grant to one party the ultimate responsibility over specific aspects of the child's welfare or may divide those responsibilities between the parties based on the best interests of the child.  Further, if it is in the best interests of the minor child, the court has the discretion to order sole parental responsibility for a minor child to one parent.

By understanding the analysis of the parental responsibility aspect early in a Florida divorce, a party can begin to create one aspect of a parenting plan and hopefully avoid any undue stress and expense of unnecessary litigation.