Florida courts no longer use labels such as “primary custody” or “secondary custody” or “visitation” to describe a parent’s relationship with a child. Instead, Florida courts now determine whether there should be “Shared Parental Responsibility” or “Sole Parental Responsibility”. Shared parental responsibility is a court-ordered relationship which grants both parents equal input in major decisions affecting the welfare of their child. Florida courts prefer this type of relationship as it encourages communication between the parents, which is in the best interests of children. However, if the court determines it would be detrimental for one parent to participate in the decision-making it can grant the other parent “Sole Parental Responsibility” for all decision-making regarding the child.
Shared parental responsibility does not require that the parents equally split where the child resides. As noted above, the courts no longer determine “custody” or “primary residence” of a child. Florida law now requires that the parties submit a “Parenting Plan” to the court, which is a written agreement between the parties that governs the needs of the child. The plan will contain a time-sharing schedule for the parents and it will also address such issues as health care, day care, education and social issues. If the parties cannot ultimately agree on a parenting plan then the court will do so.