Navigating the divorce process can be extremely difficult, which is one of the reasons it is an effective decision to use a Florida family law attorney with a practice focused on divorce. The process is even more challenging when children are involved, especially in circumstances where a parent believes that the other parent is potentially unfit to have shared custody. For a long time, circumstances like those resulted in one parent having sole custody of a child. However, as the family law field develops, so do the options and terminology used. Now, Florida custody is referred to as time sharing and, while a parent may request and sometimes be granted sole parental responsibility with limited visitation for a child or children depending on the individual circumstances of the divorce, Florida courts will generally not deny a parent overnight visitation or other custody privileges unless there are compelling reasons to do so.
The Goals of Sole Parental Responsibility
The process of obtaining sole parental responsibility, or sole custody, is difficult and a particular outcome is not guaranteed. However, if you believe the interests of the children involved in the divorce would be served best with sole parental responsibility and limited visitation, you can work with your attorney to develop a case to present to the court in support of that type of custody arrangement. Most parents seeking sole parental responsibility to do for very important reasons that commonly include some of the following scenarios:
- Concern over the other parent’s living arrangements, such as unsafe housing or questionable acquaintances;
- Concern over substance abuse issues involving alcohol or drugs;
- Concern over a pattern of domestic abuse victimizing the parent seeking sole parental responsibility or the children;
- The presence of dangerous mental illness;
- Criminal activity; and/or
- Fundamental differences in medical care preferences based on the different religion of each parent, among other issues.
Even with the potential for such a request to be granted in these types of circumstances, it is important to be realistic about your custody expectations and understand that sole parental responsibility is generally only granted in extreme circumstances.
Most parents facing the potential for these circumstances to develop, or trying to prevent their children from being exposed to these circumstances if they already exist, do so for specific reasons that often include but are not limited to the following:
- Sole decision making on important issues, like schools and doctors;
- Protection of a child’s health and well-being;
- The ability to control a child’s interactions with the other parent; and/or
- The ability to control who else besides the other parent is able to interact with a child, among other reasons.
It is important to keep in mind that requesting this type of time sharing can ultimately harm your own chances at a beneficial time sharing arrangement if you request it without merit. That being said, if you believe the child’s other parent poses a significant risk to the child’s safety, it is extremely important that you and your attorney advocate for that child’s best interests. Even when a court determines sole parental responsibility is an appropriate action, this does not terminate the other parent’s rights to spend time with the child. A court will instead put a plan into place that protects a parent’s right to have access to their child while providing common sense safety measures that are designed to protect the best interests of the child. These approaches might include limited visitation, supervised visitation in some situations, or any number of other arrangements a Florida court determines are appropriate given the individual circumstances of the case. A court may also potentially determine that one parent can make the final decision in circumstances where parents cannot effectively come to an agreement.
Pursuing Sole Parental Responsibility
There are circumstances where sole parental responsibility is the appropriate action regarding custody. In such cases, you should not be discouraged from attempting to secure that type of custody arrangement. When preparing to do so, it is helpful to take the following steps in preparation for your request:
- Determine and clarify your reasons for seeking sole parental responsibility;
- Speak with your Florida divorce attorney to discuss the reasons for seeking this type of custody arrangement;
- Discuss with your Florida divorce attorney to determine whether or not your reasons for seeking sole parental responsibility might fit within circumstances likely to convince a court to award such an arrangement;
- Work with your divorce attorney to determine whether or not you have the appropriate documentation to prove claims you may need to make about the child’s safety in relation to the other parent; and
- Be prepared to negotiate alternatives if your desire for sole parental responsibility is not granted by the court.
You should also keep in mind that pursuing this type of custody determination from a court can be costly because it often involves the use of outside professionals who will need to be paid by the parties involved in the divorce, and it is possible that you may end up shouldering much if not all of the cost. Being realistic in your expectations and approach regarding divorce-related issues like child custody arrangements is an important step in securing the most beneficial outcome from the Florida divorce process.
Legal Assistance with Florida Time Sharing and Other Divorce-Related Issues
Sole parental responsibility, much like all aspects of the Florida divorce process, is unique to each individual. Once you have made the difficult decision to pursue divorce and have selected a Florida divorce attorney that can best meet your needs, it is important to maintain open and honest lines of communication with your attorney. Florida family law attorneys that focus their practice on Florida divorces have a wealth of information and resources that they can provide to help you understand the divorce process more clearly and be better informed to make decisions regarding your individual circumstances during the Florida divorce process. If you have additional questions about Florida divorce or custody-related matters, contact Scott J. Stadler to schedule a consultation and find out more information about how divorce and custody could affect you.