Sole Custody in Florida: What You Need to Know

The state of Florida recognizes that both parents should be involved in their children’s lives as much as possible. When going through a divorce, courts encourage parents to work together to develop a parenting plan that outlines time-sharing and parental responsibilities. Under Florida law, mothers and fathers have equal rights to spend time with their children and make decisions about how they’re raised. However, there are rare circumstances where both parents having decision-making power isn’t in the children’s best interest. In these cases, physical custody and parental responsibility may be awarded to one parent. Below, we discuss the circumstances when one parent may be awarded sole custody in Florida. 

What is Sole Custody?

Sole custody is an outdated term that Florida courts no longer recognize. However, many parents still use this term to refer to having complete decision-making rights and sole physical custody of their children. Instead, Florida courts refer to custody as “time-sharing” and the ability to make decisions regarding a child’s upbringing as “parental responsibility.” Sole parental responsibility is rare in Florida, as courts want to ensure both parents are active parts of their children’s lives.

What Does Sole Parental Responsibility Mean? 

When a parent is awarded sole parental responsibility, they have full parenting rights regarding the children. The other parent has no authority over the decisions regarding the children’s upbringing, though they may still have visitation rights. In some instances, sole parental responsibility can be granted to one parent for specific decisions, such as medical care or schooling.

Situations Where Sole Parental Responsibility is Awarded 

Sole parental responsibility is rare in the state of Florida. However, there are specific circumstances when sole parental responsibility may be granted during divorce proceedings. During divorce hearings, the requesting parent must provide evidence as to why sole parental responsibility should be awarded to them. Circumstances when sole parental responsibility may be granted include:

Unfit Parenting

If a parent has displayed irresponsible behavior that puts their children in danger, the other parent may be awarded sole parental responsibility. This could include having an unstable or unsanitary home environment, a history of alcohol or drug abuse, or unreliability. 

Domestic Violence 

Instances of domestic violence or neglect involving a parent or a parent’s partner would be a valid reason for the children to reside with the other parent permanently. 

Alternatives to Sole Parental Responsibility

Sole parental responsibility is only awarded when absolutely necessary. One alternative to granting sole parental responsibility is supervised time-sharing, where a parent would only spend time with their children with another adult present (such as the other parent, a friend, a relative, or a social worker). While the decision-making aspects regarding the children would be placed on the requesting parent, the other parent would still be able to visit their children. Another alternative to sole parental responsibility is limited time-sharing, where children spend the majority of their time with one parent. 

Lake County Custody Lawyer: Remsen Family Law Firm 

Florida courts prefer outcomes with shared parental responsibility and time-sharing. However, when spending time with the other parent puts children at risk for neglect or abuse, one parent may be awarded sole parental responsibility. Custody and time-sharing arrangements are complex matters. Have an experienced family law attorney like Frank P. Remsen help you achieve the best outcome for you and your children. Call our office or contact us online to schedule a consultation.