What does Shared Parental Responsibility mean? Does that mean I have joint custody?By DADvocacy™ | February 24, 2014
In a divorce, there are many issues that are difficult to resolve. But in Florida, one issue that is usually disposed of immediately is “Shared Parental Responsibility.” Some states use the term “joint custody” to mean the same thing. With few exceptions, both parents will share the responsibilities, rights, and joys of parenting even when custody (now called “timesharing”) is disputed.
It’s often difficult to share in parenting with your former spouse. Maybe you feel he or she doesn’t deserve it. Or maybe they are absent from the children frequently and have never “taken an interest” in them before. Regardless, you must have the highest regard for Florida’s Shared Parental Responsibility statute. 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.
Specifically, the Court will order the following:
1. Each parent will be responsible for making the day-to-day decisions regarding the child’s care, maintenance, and welfare when the child is in each parent’s care, but the parties must consult with one another on larger and more important questions of religion; major discipline; finances; moral, social, recreational, and legal matters; school and educational programs; changes in social recreational and legal matters; changes in social environment; and non-emergency health care. (Both parties will have an active role in providing a sound moral, socioeconomic, and educational environment for the child consistent with the best interest of the child, and they must amicably resolve any disputes that arise.)
2. The parties must conduct themselves and their activities in a manner that will promote the welfare and the interest of the child.
3. Each party must promptly notify the other of any serious illness or accident affecting the child. (Your spouse must have any and all contact information for you, including home, cell, work numbers and addresses, the phone numbers for the child’s school, daycare, and/or babysitters. Because both parents will be entitled to authorize emergency medical treatment for your child, keeping your information up to date will ensure you the opportunity to participate in those decisions if they come about.)
4. Each party will have access to the child’s records and information, including but not limited to medical, dental, and school records. (This means that you must provide such information to your former spouse as you receive it. We ask that you reasonably respect this paragraph. While you do not have to provide your spouse a copy of every piece of schoolwork; disciplinary notices and report cards should at least be provided. With regard to medical records, you need not rush out and duplicate dental x-rays, but instead, provide your spouse with opportunities to attend appointments and inform him of the outcome of any checkups or doctor’s visits.
5. Each party must attempt to ensure that the child maintains unhampered contact and free access with both parties. Each party must encourage a feeling of affection between the child and both parties. Neither parent is permitted to hamper the natural development of the child’s love and respect for the other. While the minor child is residing with one parent, that parent must make all reasonable efforts to facilitate communication between the other parent and the child, both by telephone and through the mail. However, in every event, such telephonic communication will be required to be reasonable in nature. Neither party is permitted to do anything that would estrange the child from the other.
Sometimes that last part is the most difficult one. First, you may feel sad or angry toward your former spouse, but you shouldn’t burden your child with your feelings— your child is likely experiencing a loss as well. Children have the right to spend loving, quality time with each parent, without feeling guilty that they are hurting their other parent by doing so. If you are unable to keep your feelings about your former spouse from your child, you need to find a support group or a qualified therapist because there can be serious consequences of discussing the reasons behind your sadness and anger with your children. They need both parents in order to develop properly emotionally, and they should not be forced to take sides, not even in their minds. Second, a parent who fails to do everything in their power to create in the minds of the children a loving, caring, feeling toward the other parent, are subject to the severest penalties, including contempt, imprisonment, loss of timesharing or any combination thereof.
At the beginning of a case, it may seem that you bear an insurmountable burden, where you are always doing the right thing, and it may seem that your spouse couldn’t care less. Please try hard to do the best you can. I have found that Shared Parental Responsibility is difficult at first, but eventually, most families easily adjust to, and definitely prefer, the consistency and calmness that the observance of the Shared Parental Responsibility Guidelines brings.