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It is the public policy of Florida to encourage shared responsibility for parenting unless it is necessary to protect the welfare of the children. See Davis v. Lopez-Davis, 2014 Fla. Ap. LEXIS 5159 (Fla. 4th DCA 2014); Allen v. Allen, 787 So. 2d 215, 217 (Fla. 5th DCA 2001), review denied, 800 So. 2d 612 (Fla. 2001).

Additionally, Flor. Stat.§ 61.13(2)(c)1 provides:

[i]t is the public policy of this state that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing. There is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child or for or against any specific time-sharing schedule when creating or modifying the parenting plan of the child.

The courts have held  “Shared parental responsibility is statutorily required unless the court specifically finds that it would be detrimental to the children.” Rashid, 35 So. 3d at 994; see also Fla. Stat. § 61.13(2)b(2). While the trial court is not required to make specific findings regarding every factor, the trial court is required to find that the time-sharing schedule was in the best interests of the children and that shared parental responsibility was detrimental to the children. See Longo v. Longo, 576 So. 2d 402 (Fla. 2d DCA 1991); Winters v. Brown, 51 So. 3d 656, 658 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011). All responsibility cases require a parenting plan (sometimes called a custody agreement in other states). A plan outlines how parents will share the rights and responsibilities of raising their children and includes time-sharing schedules.

Parents who negotiate a settlement must submit a plan together. The judge usually approves the plan as is, but has the power to make changes for the best interests of the children.

In a trial, each parent submits a proposed plan. The judge is required to review the proposals and creates a final plan based on the evidence presented.

Fla. Stat. § 61.13(2)b(2) permits the judge to approve, grant, or modify a parenting plan.

The judge is required at a minimum to:

  1. Describe in detail how the parents will share  responsibility for the daily tasks associated with raising the child;
  2. include the time-sharing schedule specifying  the time the child will spend with each parent;
  3. Designate who will be responsible for:
    1. Any and all forms of health care. If the court orders shared parental responsibility over health care decisions, the parenting plan must provide that either parent may consent to mental health treatment for the child.
    2. School-related matters, including the address to be used for school-boundary determination and registration.
    3. Other activities; and

4. Describe in detail the methods and technologies parents will use to communicate with the child.

The statute also provides the standards the judge must apply in fashioning the parenting responsibility plan.

In the first instance, the judge must consider the parent’s wishes. However. the judge may delegate to one party the ultimate responsibility for specific aspects of the child’s welfare or may divide those responsibilities between the parties based on the best interests of the child.

Areas of responsibility may include education, health care, and any other responsibilities that the court finds unique to a particular family.

In extreme cases, the judge must order sole parental responsibility, with or without time-sharing with the other parent, if it is in the best interests of the minor child.

However, access to records and information pertaining to a minor child, including, but not limited to, medical, dental, and school records, may not be denied to either parent.

Rights of  parents apply to  both  parents unless there is unless a court order specifically revokes these rights, including any restrictions on these rights as provided in a domestic violence injunction

Otherwise, both parents will have the right to in-person communication with medical, dental, and education providers.

The standards that are to guide the judge in establishing a parenting responsibility plan are the same for modification. 

Whether creating, developing, approving, or modifying a parenting plan, including a time-sharing schedule, the best interest of the child shall be the primary consideration of the judge.

The court is must evaluate all of the factors affecting the welfare and interests of the child and the circumstances of the family, including, but not limited to:

  1. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
  2. The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
  3. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.
  4. The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
  5. The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against the relocation of either parent with a child.
  6. The moral fitness of the parents.
  7. The mental and physical health of the parents.
  8. The home, school, and community record of the child.
  9. The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
  10. The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.
  11. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
  12. The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.
  13. Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought. If the court accepts evidence of prior or pending actions regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, the court must specifically acknowledge in writing that such evidence was considered when evaluating the best interests of the child.
  14. Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
  15. The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties.
  16. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
  17. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
  18. The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.

19. The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.

If these factors are not enough, the law provides a catch-all:

20. Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.

Clearly, these factors focus on the best interests of the child. The court seeks to protect children throughout the divorce litigation process and after.  Florida shared parenting model attempts to shift the focus of “custody contests” between parents over children, to an enlightened model that emphasizes the needs of the child and assigns responsibility for child-rearing to both parents whenever possible. It is a child-centered policy that encourages cooperation over conflict.

If you are considering a divorce, you will need an experienced legal team. Brodie Friedman is the top-rated family law firm in Florida. Any family and any situation, our experience and expertise will get you through these trying times. We’re here for you.

With over 30 years of combined experience, Jason Brodie Esq. and Joshua Friedman Esq. will guide you toward realistic goals and provide committed advocacy toward achieving them. They are known throughout South Florida for dedicated client service, tenacity, and success in complex divorce litigation involving property division, child custody, and spousal support. 

To get a better understanding of the qualities our reputation is built on, contact our office in Boca Raton to schedule your initial phone consultation (561) 392-5100.

reputation is built on, contact our office in Boca Raton to schedule your initial phone consultation (561) 392-5100.

With over 30 years of combined experience, Jason Brodie Esq. and Joshua Friedman Esq. will guide you toward realistic goals and provide committed advocacy toward achieving them. They are known throughout South Florida for dedicated client service, tenacity, and success in complex divorce litigation involving property division, child custody, and spousal support. 

To get a better understanding of the qualities our reputation is built on, contact our office in Boca Raton to schedule your initial phone consultation (561) 392-5100

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