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What is Shared Parental Responsibility?

Posted on August 18, 2013

As many people know, approximately five years ago, the Florida legislature changed the way divorce cases involving children were handled. The legislature recognized that “custody” battles were flooding the courts and hurting families going through a divorce.  No longer would the terms “custody” or “visitation” be used.  The courts are now required to utilize parenting plans Supreme Court of Florida Parenting Plan .  These parenting plans are used to establish timesharing as opposed to visitation.  In the parenting plans nowhere does it discuss “custody”.  The term “custody” has been removed from all of the Florida Statutes governing family law.  Now the courts designate “parental responsibility” to the parents.  The court or the parties may decide to use “shared parental responsibility”, “sole parental responsibility” or “ultimate decision making” over the children.

Shared parenting is far and away the most common designation of parental responsibility.  Under shared parental responsibility, the parents are required to discuss with each other all major decisions regarding the children such as, health care and education.  If the parties cannot agree with each other they are forced to go to court to have a judge decide.  Sole parental responsibility is very rare and it is utilized in extreme cases.  Under sole parental responsibility, one parent makes all the decisions regarding the child. The decision making parent is not required to consult with the other parent on any of the decisions regarding the child’s care.  Ultimate decision making is a variation of shared parental responsibility.  Under ultimate decision making, the parties are first required to consult with each other on all child related issues. If the parties cannot agree, one parent is designated the ultimate decision maker and their position on an issue will trump that of the other parent.  Ultimate decision making is commonly used in extremely high conflict cases where the court believes the parents simply cannot agree on anything.  By giving one parent ultimate decision making, the court hopes to avoid the parties frequently coming back into court.

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