Shared Parental Responsibility Under Florida Law and Your Child’s Extracurricular Activities

A well-known idiom points out that “the devil is in the details.” Divorce and child custody arrangements can be a lot like that. That’s because there are a lot of details, both great and small, that must be addressed in order to create a working shared parental responsibility relationship. Decisions that parents who share joint custody must work together to make may run the spectrum from choosing the child’s schools to religious training and attendance to participation in sports or other extracurricular activities. Whatever the subject matter is, it’s important to understand what the courts can and cannot demand when it comes to a parenting plan. One plan from Southwest Florida got thrown out by the 2d District Court of Appeal recently because it improperly stripped away rights from one of the child’s parents.

The case, which originated in Naples, involved the children of M.L. (father) and A.L. (mother). The couple had a parenting plan in place, but some time later, the mother went back to court seeking a modification. The trial court made a modification to the order, awarding shared parental responsibility to both of the parents but also declaring that “if a child does not desire to attend an extracurricular activity, the child shall not be required to attend.”

The father appealed this modification order. While the appeals court upheld most of what the trial judge ordered, it took issue with the language about extracurricular activities. That’s because “shared parental responsibility” has a specific legal meaning under Florida law that is defined in the Florida Statutes. Section 61.046(17) states that a shared parental responsibility situation is a court-ordered relationship between the parents in which “both parents retain full parental rights and responsibilities with respect to their child,” and in which, by law, the parents are required to work together to ensure that all major judgments about the child’s welfare and upbringing are made collectively by both parents.

The trial court’s order in this case violated that statute. By allowing a child to avoid engaging in an extracurricular activity simply by expressing his or her desire not to participate, the trial court’s order placed that element of decision-making not in the hands of the parents but in the hands of the minor child. The appeals court cited to a 1983 Miami case, Elkins v. Vanden Bosch, which also involved decision-making by minor children. In that case, the appeals court pointed out that allowing minor children to make fundamental decisions for themselves would “gratify the wishes of children at the expense of the rights of a parent,” and such a dynamic would not be in the best interests of the children.

Ideally, parents will work out a parenting plan that works for both parents while achieving the best interests of their child (or children.) Sometimes, though, that’s just not possible, and utilizing the legal system becomes necessary. For advice and representation for your custody, timesharing, and parenting plan issues, talk to the experienced South Florida child custody attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our attorneys have the tools to help you reach a solution without the court’s involvement when possible, and to advocate for you when court involvement becomes a necessity. Contact our diligent and determined attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

South Florida Mother Faces Arrest for Blocking Son’s Circumcision in Violation of Parenting Agreement, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, March 18, 2015

Fort Lauderdale Divorce, Religion And Minor Children, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, May 24, 2009