It Sounded Like “Joint Custody, Why Isn’t It in Florida? – Explanation of Florida “Custody” Laws


For many years, the courts in Florida have embraced the idea that a child of divorced parents should enjoy the input and direction from both parents, not just the parent who has “custody.” So, under Chapter 61, Florida Statutes, the court will typically require that the divorcing parents have “…shared parental responsibility.” Sometimes this is loosely referred to as, “joint parental responsibility,” or at least what that’s what the parents “hear” when they hear “shared parental responsibility. But this does not mean “joint custody.” Joint custody is where each parent has “custody” of the child for roughly equal lengths of time. This is not usually favored by Florida courts, as it often becomes impractical, especially if the parents live too far apart, or even in different school districts, much less different cities. Also, as children grow, their circle of friends and social interests expand, which can be compromised by their going back and forth between parents like a ping-pong ball. So, “shared parental responsibility” or even “joint parental responsibility” is not the same thing as “joint custody.”
With “shared parental responsibility,” both parents keep full parental rights and full parental responsibilities. Section 61.046, Florida Statutes. This also means that the parents must consult and confer with each other on matters concerning the welfare and best interests of the child, especially on major decision. When it comes to medical care or education, these decisions should be made jointly, if possible, after the parents have consulted each other. However, sometimes a court will split these areas of responsibility between the parents. Section 61.13(2), Florida Statutes.

In a typical divorce case, the child’s “primary residence” is deemed to be with one parent, who is granted the “primary residential care” of the child. This parent is usually referred to as the “custodial parent.” Sections 61.046(3), 61.13(2)(b) 2.a., Fla. Statutes. Not surpisingly, the other parent is usually called the “noncustodial parent.” Section 61.046(10), Florida Statutes. But none of this labeling changes the basic fact that the parents usually share in the parental rights and responsibilities for the child.

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