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Updates and Commentary For West Palm Beach and Surrounding Areas

How Do I Get Sole or Full Custody in Florida?

We get asked this question a lot, and the quick answer to it is: you cannot. There is no such thing as truly sole custody in Florida anymore, and Florida family courts will not reject a parent’s right to have a relationship with or see their child. The courts will always look at what is in a child’s best interest, and may restrict a parent’s time-sharing capability or provide one parent with one-sided decision-making authority (in very rare cases), but again, sole custody is no longer an option. However, you may be able to get majority parental responsibility or majority time-sharing. We will be honest here though, as this process is one of the toughest we face, and many times it cannot be granted from the courts. We will discuss what options are available and how to achieve them.

As sole custody is not an option, we are going to look at the concepts of Parental Responsibility and Time Sharing, and how those can be adjusted. Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a bill in 2011 establishing Parental Time Sharing and Responsibility, instead of the old terms of custody and visitation. This was done to eliminate the constant battle of who was considered a “primary” or “secondary” parent.

Parental Time Sharing defines the time that spend with your child; it is the time that you are actually being a parent to your child and helping establish what kind of person they are to become. This also cements the idea that you are not “visiting” your child, you are parenting your child.

Parental responsibility defines what decisions you are making and how you’re making them regarding your child and their well-being. This includes each party having a say in their child’s education, disciplinary practices, health, etc.  Of course, if the parties can’t agree, then the Courts will decide on their behalf.

Sole parental responsibility is something that the courts have awarded in the past, and can be an option for you if needed.  Normally, each parent will share in the parental responsibility and make decisions together regarding the child’s well-being. However, we have seen where a parent will make decisions that can harm a child’s well-being, such as refusing to take their child to extracurricular activities or prohibit a child from getting necessary medical attention due to personal or religious beliefs. The courts have awarded sole parental responsibility in cases such as this to a single parent so that the child can be best taken care of and develop properly.

Since Florida courts will not fully cut off a parent from seeing their child or have overnights with them, the courts can give a parent shared responsibility with one person making a tie breaking decision if the parents cannot agree on an issue, visits, or supervised visits. The courts can also order no visits with a parent unless certain conditions are met, such as a mental health evaluation. If you believe that your child is in danger with the other parent, then you need to document the events that have caused you to believe this (such as police reports, medical professional reports, etc), as well as be consistent and persisting, and present these to the courts. Florida courts may reject visits from the offending parent until they have proven that they can reasonably care for their child and provide a safe living environment. This will only happen if the evidence