Shared Parental Responsibility (Custody/Visitation)

Shared parental responsibility is a court ordered relationship in which both parents retain full parental rights and responsibilities and in which both parents confer with each other, so that major decisions affecting the welfare of the children will be determined jointly. This provides a framework for effective co-parenting and protects your children's rights to a relationship with their mother and their father even when their mother and father are no longer together. Sometimes fundamental differences between the parents about how to raise their children have contributed to the divorce. Nonetheless, the public policy in Florida is that it is best for children to have both of their parents significantly involved in their lives. In October, 2008 the terms "primary residential parent" and "secondary residential parent" were removed from the law.  The focus is now on a specific parenting plan and a time-sharing schedule that is best for the child.  Under Florida Law, both parents are given equal consideration in determining the appropriate parenting plan.

While the terms custody and visitation are still heard, Florida Law recognizes the reality that parents do not "visit" their own children.  Rather, the parents share the child's time with the children spending time with one parent, then another under a schedule designed for the particular circumstances of each child.  When one parent has their time-sharing with the child, that person is the person responsible for meeting the needs of that child when the child is in his or her care. Florida law provides that parents consult with one another on questions related to religious upbringing, discipline, financial matters, moral training, social and recreational activities as well as non-emergency medical and dental care. Also, each parent takes an active role in providing a sound moral, social, economic and educational environment for the children and in amicably resolving any disputes that arise. Both parents have access to records and information pertaining to the minor children, including medical, dental and school records. Be sure to modify the school records so both parents' contact information is updated as well as advising coaches, tutors and others who work with your children so your involvement can continue. If one parent handled these matters more than the other during the marriage, it may be a matter of getting acquainted with the areas you did not handle. Taking the time to be sure you are completely involved and informed regarding your children will be beneficial to all of you.

The law is very specific in setting out a public policy that parents are to promote the best interest of their children which includes promoting a relationship with both parents including electronic, telephone, webcam and in person contact; keeping the other parent informed promptly of any serious illness or accident affecting the children; recognizing that both have the right to authorize emergency treatment for the children; and conducting themselves and their activities at all times in a way that will promote the welfare and best interests of the children.

If the parents cannot agree on a time sharing schedule, the court must decide the schedule, considering the following factors: Each parent's capacity and disposition of each parent to encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent and to honor the time-sharing schedule, including being reasonable when changes are required; to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent; to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as dislipline and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime; to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child; and to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the childs friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things; to participate and be involved in the child's school and extracurricular activities; to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse; and to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.  

Other factors considered by law are: the anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to those will be handled by third parties rather then the parent; the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity; the geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan; the moral fitness of the parents; the mental and physical health of the parents; the home, school, and community record of the child; the reasonable preference of the child, if the court finds they are mature enough to express an opinion; the particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties; the developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child's developmental needs.  The court also considers evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought; and evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect. The court may also consider any other relevant factors.

However, as the parents, you know your children best and everyone is best served if the two of you can work out a parenting arrangement for your family's specific circumstances. (See Family Law Mediation) Your children will also benefit if you take the time to read and research about how divorce affects children. Take the time to seek help if you are struggling with sharing the responsibilities for your children and the time spent with your children. In any partnership the individual partners divide duties according to skill sets or scheduling or aptitude. This is particularly true of parenting. When each parent is suddenly on their own regarding the time they are responsible for the children, there are naturally going to be areas of responsibility you simply never handled before. You may need to become informed about details you previously left to your spouse. He or she is no longer responsible for letting you know there is a teacher planning day, or the little league schedule or the dentist appointment scheduled 6 months ago now falls during your parenting time. To be realistic, both parents have a lot on their mind, so do not assume bad behavior if you are not told about an event. You are a parent, you have all authority and ability to obtain the information that relates to your children and their activities. It is your responsibility to protect your children from undue hurt and turmoil. One of the most difficult and painful parts of dissolution of marriage concerns the children. So strive to keep things as positive for them as you can. Remember you will no longer be husband and wife, but you will always remain a father and mother to your children.


In Florida, the court retains jurisdiction to modify or change orders regarding the children and may do so under certain circumstances. Contrary to urban legend, there is no set age in Florida where a child is allowed to choose with which parent he or she will live. The standard is to determine what is in that child's best interest. There are many circumstances under which a court may need to modify a court order regarding children. One of the parents may want to relocate; one parent may have achieved a significantly higher salary since child support was determined; the child may be suffering under the current parenting schedule; etc. We will be happy to talk with you about you and your children's particular situation and assist you in determining if an action seeking modification of the court order currently in place may be in your children's best interest and appropriate under Florida law.

When spouses divorce, they lose the right to inherit under the other's will. Florida statute 732.507 states that the divorce decree voids any provision in a will that bequeaths property to a former spouse. Instead, that property will pass to an alternate beneficiary as though the former spouse predeceased the now deceased spouse.

Read more: Divorce Laws & Inheritance in Florida |

2012 law changes beneficiaries when spouse divorce. The Florida Legislature recently passed Florida Statue Sec. 732.703, which will invalidate the designation of an ex-spouse as a beneficiary on life insurance policies and other elements within an employee benefits plan if those designations were made prior to the divorce. The law is effective July 1, 2012. After July 1, 2012, if an employee wants their ex-spouse to be a beneficiary on a life insurance policy or another employee benefit plan product, they will have to make that designation after the dissolution of the marriage. Any employees who currently have an ex-spouse as a beneficiary and want to keep this designation will have to re-submit a beneficiary form designating the ex-spouse dated after July 1, 2012.

The statute impacts beneficiary designations made on the following:

  • A life insurance policy, qualified annuity or similar tax-deferred contract held within an employee benefit plan
  • An employee benefit plan
  • An individual retirement account described in s. 408 or 408A of the IRS Code of 1986
  • A payable-on-death account
  • A security or other account registered in a transfer-on-death account
  • A life insurance policy, qualified annuity or similar tax-deferred contract NOT held within an employee benefit plan or tax qualified retirement account.

At The McCall Moody Law Firm we can guide you through the complexities of creating a parenting schedule that meets your needs and concerns taking into account the uniqueness of your children and their best interests. We will explain to you the application of the child support guidelines to your circumstances. If you already have a court order in place and believe it may be appropriate to change that order, we can consult with you and advise you in those matters. If you need to relocate, and a child is involved, we can represent you through that legal process.

Please contact The McCall Moody Law Firm today if you or a family member is in need of legal assistance and would like to set up an appointment to have your situation evaluated. Contact The McCall Moody Law Firm at 850-656-7753 for a consultation with an experienced divorce law attorney. The McCall Moody Law Firm is located just east off Thomasville Road and Kerry Forest Parkway intersection.