Court Explains Florida Rules Regarding Parental Responsibility in Custody Cases

In Florida, when a couple with minor children divorces, the courts must not only determine the parents’ rights with regard to child support and visitation, but also which parent can make important decisions about how the child will be raised. As explained in a recent Florida ruling, the law dictates that absent evidence that doing so would harm the child in question, the courts must grant equal parental responsibility rights. If you are dealing with a custody dispute, it is wise to talk to a Miami child custody lawyer about what action you can take to safeguard your interests as soon as possible.

Legal Background

It is alleged that in August 2019, the wife initiated legal proceedings to dissolve her marriage. At the time, the couple had two minor children; one is still a minor, while the other has reached the age of majority. In May 2021, the trial court issued a final judgment officially ending the marriage, deferring the resolution of various other matters associated with the dissolution. Subsequently, in 2021, the wife modified her initial petition to request exclusive parental responsibility for the minor child. A consent partial judgment was later reached by both parties and officially sanctioned by the trial court in March 2022. This judgment granted joint parental responsibility.

It is reported that the unresolved issues, primarily involving child support and visitation arrangements, were then brought before the court for trial. The trial court directed both parties to adhere to the previously agreed-upon consent partial judgment and granted joint parental responsibility for the minor child, affirming the shared responsibility aspect of the consent partial judgment. The court also incorporated a comprehensive parenting plan that stipulated shared parental responsibility but granted the wife ultimate decision-making authority concerning the child’s education, academics, and non-emergency healthcare in the event of disagreement between the parties. The husband appealed.

Parental Responsibility Under Florida Law

On appeal, the court reversed the trial court ruling. In doing so, it explained that the relevant section of the law states that unless it is determined that shared parental responsibility would be harmful to the child, the court should order both parents to share parental responsibility for a minor child. The final judgment in this case, however, did not include a specific finding of detriment to the minor child as required by the statute, to depart from the mandate of shared parental responsibility. The court noted that in a previous case, it was held that ultimate decision-making authority should not be granted to one parent when both parents are fit, and there is no finding of detriment to the child, as it goes against the purpose of the parental responsibility law.

As such, the court found that the husband’s due process rights were violated when the final judgment incorporated conditions regarding shared parental responsibility from the Parenting Plan without providing him with notice and an opportunity to be heard on those conditions. Therefore, the court remanded the case with instructions to create an amended Parenting Plan that establishes shared parental responsibilities in accordance with the consent final judgment.

Speak with a Trusted Miami Attorney

Generally, the courts will find it to be in a child’s best interest for both parents to have a say in their upbringing and will grant parents equal parental responsibility. If you have questions about how you can protect your parental rights in a custody matter, it is wise to speak with an attorney. The trusted Miami lawyers of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. have ample experience handling complicated custody disputes, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly to help you seek a good outcome. Our office is located in Aventura, and we frequently represent people in family law matters in Miami. You can contact us through our online form or at 800-596-0579 to schedule a conference.