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Orlando Family Law Attorneys – Parental Responsibility

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A parent has a constitutionally protected inherent right to a meaningful relationship with his or her children. It is a basic proposition that a parent has a natural legal right to enjoy the custody, fellowship, and companionship of an offspring. The only limitation to this rule of parental privilege is that between parent and child, the ultimate welfare of the child must be controlling. In most cases, parental responsibility for a minor child will be shared by both parents, so that each retains full parental rights and responsibilities with respect to their child or children. This requires both parents to confer, so that major decisions affecting the welfare of the child will be determined jointly. The concept of shared parental responsibility is complex, but it is extremely important that parents understand and comply with this duty. However, in certain cases, it may be appropriate to have shared parental responsibility with ultimate decision-making or even sole parental responsibility.

Shared Parental Responsibility

Pursuant to section 61.046, Florida Statute, “shared parental responsibility” means a court-ordered relationship in which both parents retain full parental rights and responsibilities with respect to their child and in which both parents confer with each other so that major decisions affecting the welfare of the child will be determined jointly.


Shared parental responsibility is statutorily required in the state of Florida unless the court finds awarding shared responsibility would be detrimental to the child’s best interests. Shared parental responsibility means the parents will be jointly responsible for making major decisions for the child, including medical treatments, child care, education, and all other substantial decisions regarding the minor child. The purpose of shared parental responsibility is to keep both parents active in a child’s life and informed regarding the decisions impacting the minor child.


If one parents has been convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor involving domestic violence, there is a rebuttable presumption that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the minor child.

Shared Parental Responsibility with Ultimate Decision-Making Authority

Florida Statutes expressly provides that a court may grant to one party the ultimate responsibility over specific aspects of the child’s welfare including primary residence, education, medical care and others. It is clear, however, that the law contemplates such decisions being made on a case-by-case basis after an evidentiary finding concerning the best interest of the child. For example, if one parent believes that the minor child should not be vaccinated, the court may award ultimate decision making regarding medical decisions to the other parent.

Sole Parental Responsibility

It is rare for a court to award sole parental responsibility; however, it may be appropriate in certain circumstances. A court shall order sole parental responsibility, with or without visitation rights, to the other parent when it is in the best interests of the minor child. Sole parental responsibility is only to be issued when it is necessary to protect the welfare of the minor child. The court is required to make specific findings as to why it is inappropriate to award shared parental responsibility. A court may approve sole custody when there is a history of:


  • Domestic violence
  • Sexual or child abuse
  • Evidence of neglect
  • Abandonment of the child
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Mental health issues


When sole parental responsibility is awarded to one parent, the other parent may still be awarded time sharing. If, however, time sharing is not in the best interest of the child, the courts may not award any such provisions.