So that you need to fly alone? Sole Parental Accountability in Florida Half 3 – Youngster Custody Authorized Blogs Posted by Daniel Forrest

Daniel Wald

In this third part of our series on parental responsibility, traditionally referred to as legal custody, we will discuss sole parental responsibility, a status that the court grants in some divorces, separations, or parenting disputes between unmarried parents. When a parent has sole parental responsibility, they alone have all rights and full responsibility to make important life decisions for the child.

In other words, the other parent has no legal authority to influence or direct decisions about health care, religion, education, and similarly influential areas of a child’s life that may apply only to the child or their family.

Achieve sole parental responsibility

As we explained in parts one and two, the pressure from the Florida and US constitutions, which recognize the right of parents to raise their own children, is to some extent reflected in state law. In Florida, a judge confronted with the issue of assigning parental decision-making authority to one or both parents must order joint responsibility unless doing so would harm the child.

In interpreting state statute requiring discrimination to depart from shared authority, judges examining whether discrimination would exist if parents shared that authority have generally set a high bar. There must be “substantial supporting evidence” of potential disadvantages.

For example, just because two parents have a hard time agreeing on important issues, or if they face conflicts, the judge will likely expect them to resolve those issues as joint decision-makers for their children. Parental hostility is usually insufficient to predict impairment of the child by shared parental authority.

Discrimination leads to sole decision-making authority

In order to order sole parental responsibility, a judge must first determine that division would harm the child. Then the only option left is to transfer all decision-making power to one parent.

Often the parent’s choice to be given sole powers is obvious, as the risk of being affected by shared powers is often related to issues with one of the parents, making the other the obvious choice to be given sole powers. Obvious problems that not only favor disadvantage but also work against decision-making authority may include substance abuse, certain mental or physical impairments, history of violence or abuse, and similar problems.

Sometimes, however, the judge may base the finding of a potential disadvantage in shared powers and the granting of sole decision-making authority on something less obvious or serious. For example, a parent may simply have a history of disinterest or lack of involvement in the child’s life, even in important areas. Or a parent may have demonstrated an inability to respond to or understand the child’s needs.

Comments are closed.