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Child Custody Rules in Florida Level the Playing Field Between Moms and Dads


Prior to 2008, the term “custody” was often used to decide which parent would have decision-making power over the child. Today, Florida operates under a different doctrine. Prior, Florida operated under the “tender years doctrine” which favored the mother in child custody arrangements. Today, the court uses the “best interests of the child doctrine” to decide issues related to custody and visitation. The Florida courts operate under the assumption that it is best to have both parents in the child’s life as opposed to just the mother making all the decisions on the child’s behalf.

Today, “custody” is a misleading term. Instead, parents have shared parental responsibility.

The three types of parental responsibility

  1. Shared parental responsibility – Both parents must work together to decide key factors of the child’s life. These include education, health care choices, and religious instruction.
  2. Sole parental responsibility – Only one parent can make key decisions regarding a child’s life. Such decisions include education, health care, and religious instruction.
  3. Hybrid responsibility – One parent would make decisions regarding the child’s education while another would make decisions regarding health care or religious instruction.

As an example of hybrid responsibility, if one parent is a doctor, they would make key decisions regarding a child’s health care. If the other parent is a school teacher, they may make decisions regarding the child’s education.

Doing away with the “custody” label 

Florida has done away with the custody label although it is still used often to describe specific aspects of shared responsibility. Instead, Florida uses the terms “timesharing” and parental responsibility. Instead of deciding that children require their mothers during tender years, the courts assume that having both parents engaged in the child’s life is preferable to having only one parent rendering all of the decisions on their behalf.

What is parental timesharing? 

While most states still use the term “custody” to refer to child visitation arrangements, Florida has done away with the term entirely. Florida law encourages both parents to have equal timesharing arrangements with their children after a divorce. One of the most common timesharing arrangements approved by Florida courts is alternating weeks. The parent would have the children for one week, then the other parent would have the children the next week.

Florida parents are free to make whatever schedules they please that fit their unique schedules. Alternatives to the alternating weeks include 2-2-5-5, in which a parent would have the children for two days, then be off the next two days, then be on for 5 days, and off the next 5 days. The 3-4-4-3 visitation schedule is also popular among parents.

What is parental responsibility? 

Parental responsibility refers to decision-making power over the child. This means deciding what school the child should go to, what sorts of healthcare choices need to be made on behalf of the child, and any religious instruction the child may receive. In Florida, the default choice is that both parents should share parental responsibility.

Talk to a Tampa, FL Family Law Attorney Today 

The Tampa, FL child custody attorneys at Westchase Law, P.A. represent the interests of parents who are attempting to navigate child custody issues in Florida. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

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