Child Custody in Florida: Parental Responsibility and Primary Residence

Monday, September 25, 2017

Child Custody in Florida: Parental Responsibility and Primary Residence 

Although a 2008 revision to Florida’s child custody laws did away with terminology like “custody,” “custodial parent,” “visitation,” and “primary residence,” they are still often used alongside the modern terms like “timesharing” and “parental responsibilities.” All of these terms, new and old, refer to a parent’s rights following a divorce to spend time with his or her child and make decisions on the child’s behalf.

The court determines a couple’s parenting time and parental responsibilities arrangement based on the child’s best interest. It may grant one parent more time with the child and the right to solely make decisions for the child, or it could create an arrangement where both parents have the right to make decisions and spend time with the child. In most cases, it is in the child’s best interest for these to be shared because this allows for the child to have a consistent, quality relationship with both parents.

What are Parental Responsibilities?

Parental responsibilities are the responsibilities of a parent to make decisions that will benefit his or her child. These include:

  • Where the child will attend school;

  • Tangential issues related to the child’s education, such as college preparation and academic extracurricular activities;

  • The child’s healthcare;

  • The child’s relationships with extended family; and

  • The child’s religious upbringing.

  • Factors considered to reach a determination about parental responsibilities include each parent’s past willingness to cooperate with court orders, the child’s relationship with each parent, each parent’s capacity to act in the child’s best interest, and

  • Each parent’s day-to-day involvement in the child’s life.

Determining a Child’s Primary Residence

In many cases, parents have timesharing agreements that state when the child will be in each parent’s care. This type of arrangement might have the children in one house during the week and every other weekend, going to the other parent’s home on opposite weekends, or it could have the children in each household for an equal amount of time each week. Factors used to determine a timesharing schedule include:

  • The stability of each household;

  • Each parent’s financial ability to provide for the child during his or her time with them;

  • The child’s academic, medical, and personal needs;

  • The members of each household and their relationships with the child; and

  • If the child is deemed to be mature enough to voice a rational opinion, the child’s opinion may be considered.

When the child spends a greater amount of time in one household, this is considered to be his or her primary residence. Often, this parent receives child support to help cover the child’s household expenses like groceries and utilities. This parent also has priority to claim the child as a dependent on his or her tax return, but may permit the other parent to claim the child.

Draper Law Office Advocates for Divorcing and Divorced Parents

Before you begin the divorce process, speak with an experienced divorce lawyer about what you can expect from your parenting plan based on the circumstances of your case. Contact Draper Law Office today online or by calling (866) 767-4711 to set up your free, no-obligation consultation in one of our three Central Florida offices.


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