Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney
Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A.
What do shared and sole parental responsibility mean when going through a divorce or family law action in Florida? Parental responsibility gives parents the right to make decisions they feel are in the best interest of their children, such as the following: public or private schooling; participating in sports; seeing grandparents; etc. When a family is divided through divorce or circumstance (i.e. a paternity action), then there becomes a question of whether one parent should get to make those decisions or if the responsibility should be shared equally by the parents (e.g. sole parental responsibility or shared parental responsibility).
In most cases, the Court will award shared parental responsibility to the parents involved in the litigation. The idea is that while the parents may not see eye-to-eye on all things, they should be able to come together for determining the decisions that go to raising their children since they chose to have children together. A parenting plan can establish certain guidelines that will be enforceable by the Court if the parents are unable to agree on certain things and there can a provision in the final order for the parents to attend mediation if they cannot reach a decision together.
In some cases, one party may continuously make decisions that have been harmful to the children (i.e. excessive drinking). If there has been a pattern of behavior of the parent not caring for the children or a parent not making decisions in the best interest of the children, then the other parent may request or petition to the court that the other parent not get to exercise parental responsibility on the bigger decisions regarding the children (i.e. private or public schooling).
If you are seeking to get sole parental responsibility, then you should speak with a lawyer that works in family law matters of this magnitude. Understanding your rights and options is best when moving forward with your divorce or paternity action.