As of 2011, the term “sole custody” is no longer used in Florida law, but you certainly can get sole parental responsibility and limited or supervised time-sharing in some circumstances.
However, the court starts with a presumption that it is in the child’s best interest to have substantial quality time with both parents. To overcome this, you will have to prove that restricting the other parent’s responsibility and time-sharing is in the best interest of your children. You have a chance of getting 100% timesharing awarded if the other parent has a history of criminal activity, drug use, or domestic violence, for example.
What Are Parental Responsibility and Time-sharing?
First, it is worth explaining what is meant by “parental responsibility” and “time-sharing”.
Time-sharing refers to the time that you are caring for your children. Parental responsibility refers to the decisions you make for your children, such as where they go to school, what doctors or dentists they will visit, or what extracurriculars to enroll them in.
In most cases, both parents have shared parental responsibility, and this means keeping the other parent informed of decisions, such as doctor and dentist appointments, extracurricular classes, and educational problems.
Since “sole custody” is no longer awarded, each issue is considered separately. So, depending on your situation, you may be able to seek restrictions on overnight visitation, require supervised visitation, and/or gain one-sided authority to make decisions on behalf of your child, for example.
In many cases, the court will allow the parent with minimal rights to reopen the case later for modification if they can show that the issues causing the restrictions have been resolved.
For example, a drug addict can seek medical help for their addiction and subject themselves to regular testing to prove that they are no longer using. The court may then adjust the time-sharing plan to allow them access as long as they continue to pass drug testing.
How to Fight for Sole Parental Responsibility and Time-Sharing
As mentioned above, in order to be awarded sole parenting responsibility and restrict the other parent’s access to your child, you will need to prove that the other parent is a danger to your child’s well-being. There are many ways you can do this, such as:
- Gathering substantial and documented evidence of the potential danger (videos of the behavior, mental health records, images of bruises or cuts from abuse, or text messages and emails where the other parent admits to the behavior, for example).
- Request the judge to require drug screenings, hair follicle tests, or mental health evaluations.
- Ask third-parties to testify that they witnessed the criminal activity, drug use, or domestic violence.
You should be aware that there are other steps you can take to protect your child and yourself in extreme circumstances, such as terminating parental rights, injunctions, restraining orders, emergency family court hearings, and dependency court proceedings.
If you or your child is in danger, don’t be afraid to seek legal help. It is available to you.
Even if you are not in a situation where criminal activity, drug use, or domestic violence is present, you may have important and valid concerns about the other parent’s ability to care for or make positive decisions for your child that can be addressed in your parenting plan.
We understand this is a sensitive and important issue in your divorce. Reach out to me today to see how we can help.