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In Florida, legal custody also known as "Parental Responsibility," refers to how decision making authority (the ability to make certain important decisions for the children) will be shared between the parents. Once parents split up, there must be a plan in place for how major decisions affecting the children will be made. 

Typically, major decisions include decisions regarding:

  • The child/children’s education
  • The child/children’s non-emergency healthcare
  • Any other important responsibilities that may be unique to this particular family

Types of Parental Responsibility

  • Shared Parental Responsibility

    Shared parental responsibility is where both parents confer and jointly make all major decisions affecting the welfare of the child/children.
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  • Shared Parental Responsibility with Decision Making Authority

    If the parents are unable to agree, a final decision will be made by the parent that has final decision making authority.
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  • Sole Parental Responsibility

    Sole parental responsibility is where one parent has the sole authority to make final decisions regarding major decisions for the child/children.
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How is Parental Responsibility Determined?

Parents getting a divorce have two options: (1) they may agree  who will make major decisions affecting the welfare of the child/children or whether that decision making ability will be shared, or (2) If the parents cannot agree, the court will determine Parental Responsibility by evaluating the best interest of the child factors.

Areas of Decision Making

  • Educational Decision Making

    Decisions concerning whether the child will be home schooled or attend public or private school, which course of study a child will engage in, and whether the child will be allowed to enroll in advanced classes are all decision that should be discussed and  made by both co-parents, unless shared parental responsibility is not appropriate. Other decisions that a parent with final decision making authority regarding education may make include: which school the child should attend, which school district the child should be enrolled in, which electives (such as health, sex education, or industrial technologies) a child may take, and whether a child may take advantage of a school sponsored field trip or other academic outing.

  • Healthcare Decision Making

    Decisions regarding health and medical care often include such things as, where the child will obtain medical treatment, what procedures the child will undergo, what medications the child will take, and whether a child will take generic or name brand medication. Many medical decisions can also be minor. For example, whether or not a child wears contacts or glasses and whether a child gets braces. All non-emergency medical decisions, major or minor, should be discussed and made by both parents, unless shared parental responsibility is not appropriate.


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