Florida Statute 61.046 defines Shared Parental Responsibility as a court ordered relationship in which both parents retain full parental rights and responsibilities with respect to their minor child, and in which both parents confer with each other, so that major decisions affecting the welfare of the child will be determined jointly. In most other States, this is called Joint Legal Custody.

When parents who are separating or divorcing cannot come to an agreement regarding how to divide visitation or parenting time, the judge  makes this decision based on the following factors,  along with what is in the child's best interests:

  • The mental and physical health of each parent
  • The length of time the children have lived at a current residence
  • Each parent's fitness in terms of morals
  • How willing each parent is in terms of keeping the other parent informed of the children's activities and interests, and encouraging a strong and loving relationship with the other parent.
  • How willing each parent is to place the children's needs over their own desires
  • The children's history in terms of home, school, and community connections.
  • The ability of each parent to meet the developmental needs of the children.
  • The ability of each parent to provide children with a consistent schedule or routine in terms of meals, bedtime, homework, etc.
  • Whether there is evidence in either parent's home of drug use, violence, child neglect, or child abuse.
  • Depending on the child's intelligence and maturity a child's preference as to which parent he or she will live with.

When is a Child's Preference Considered by the Court?

In most states, a specific age (such as 14 or 15) is set when a child's preference of which parent he/she wants to live with is considered by the court. This is not the case in Florida, as there is no particular age set and the decision is left up to the judge's discretion. However, most judges will take into account a child's preference around the age of 12 or 13, along with other factors such as the child's intelligence, maturity, the child's experiences with each parent, and whether the child understands the decision being made.

In addition, the judge will take into account factors such as if a child may be choosing to live with a parent out of rebellion against the parent who currently has custody, or if a child is being promised lavish toys or items such as a fancy computer, an electric bike, a fabulous vacation, etc. if the child goes with one parent who is making those promises.

Over the past 15 years, Florida law has changed its focus drastically regarding how issues involving children should be decided in divorce proceedings. In the past, the main task of the judge in a divorce case was to make decisions about how to divide control over the children between parents.

Today there is a much stronger emphasis on encouraging parents to work out the details regarding their children's care as they stay focused on the children's best interests.

Learn How Attorney William J Leininger Can Protect Your Interests In A Custody Case

To schedule a consultation and to learn more about how attorney William J Leininger can help protect your interests in a child custody case, contact our Sarasota family law firm online or call our office at 941-727-5555. We represent clients in Sarasota and Manatee Counties and surrounding areas.  We offer a Free Consultation and schedule appointments Monday through Saturday, including some evenings.  What have you got to lose?

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