For many years it was the policy in Florida to award the care and nurturing of minor children to a primary care parent or as was sometimes termed, the custodial parent. The other parent would be given a visitation schedule to follow when he or she was to spend time with their child. This parent was called the secondary care parent of a non-custodial parent. Unfortunately, this arrangement meant the custodial parent usually made all decisions, even major ones, for the minor child, thus, in a sense, leaving the non-custodial parent little chance to be an important part of their child’s growing up experience.
Times have changed. Terms have changed. Family Law in Florida has now adopted the motto “in the best interests of the child” and has passed laws and guidelines allowing this to happen. The care and nurturing of minor children are now handled by both parents under the terms of “shared parental responsibility” and timesharing. Here follows a brief description of how these terms are applied in Florida Family Court:
Shared parental responsibility refers directly to the need for both parents to be involved in making decisions for any minor child they have parented together. These responsibilities are grouped under headings, educational, medical, religious, and discipline. Parents are required to work together in deciding issues that come up, especially major ones such as an operation, change in school, which church to attend, and what type of discipline should be used to correct a child’s behavior. Small decisions such as going to a movie or permission to play at a friends can be made by whichever parent the child is staying with at the time of need. Granted, shared parental responsibility can be a difficult pill to swallow when parents are continually at odds with each other and have no desire to work together, children or not. However, Florida Family Couts insist they do work together in the care and nurturing of their minor children and will see that happens should one or the other parent bring the matter to court. Family counseling is available, and sometimes a judge will order the couple to attend. (at the couple’s expense)
Parental timesharing: This term refers to where a minor child will live and spend their nights. Unless there has been a conviction of child and or domestic violence, mental or physical illness too severe to allow for proper child caring, or proven strong use of drugs, both parents will be considered fit to have their minor children stay with each of them, including overnights, for an equally determined amount of time. The court will work with the parents to set up a schedule such as every other week or half of each week and every other weekend, for the child to live with each parent. A parenting plan will be drawn up which will include issues such as how and where will the child be picked up and returned to each parent, how will parents and parent and child communicate (phone, text, e-mail), who will care for the child if neither parent can and if one parent is unable to for reasons such as illness or a business trip, which parent will the child spend holidays and birthdays with (these will be divided, sometimes every other year), how will extracurricular activities be handled and paid for, what distance is a parent allowed to take a child from home, and how will sick days be handled. Each family will have their individual concerns, which will be addressed in the parenting plan. This plan, when approved by the judge, will be enforced, and should a parent not honor the plan, he or she can be taken back to court for possible contempt and resulting consequences such as fines and paying all court costs and attorney fees of both parties.
Florida takes a determined interest in the raising of children. No parents, whether there have been married or even lived together, are exempt from shared parental responsibility or timesharing. If you have parented a child, you must care for that child in a healthy, hopefully, loving way. Remember, children are the reason the world should go on.