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Steve W. Marsee, P.A. Orlando Divorce Attorney
  • Experienced DIVORCE ATTORNEY

What is the Difference Between Sole and Shared Parental Responsibility?


In Florida, courts have eschewed the use of the term custody in favor of “parental responsibility” when discussing the terms of parental rights involving a minor child. During a divorce, the parents can either be given sole or shared parental responsibility over their child, but what exactly does that entail and how can that determination affect you as a parent? Understanding the terminology of the courts and the implications of a parental responsibility decision can have a drastic impact on your life and that of your child. To learn more about parental responsibility decisions during and after a divorce, reach out to a skilled Orlando child custody attorney at our office today.

Legal versus Physical Custody

Before defining sole and shared parental responsibility, it is first important to understand the differences between legal and physical custody. The legal custody of a child pertains to the parent’s ability to make decisions about the child’s day to day care and upbringing. This includes everything from where the child goes to school, their religious upbringing, medical decisions, psychological care, extracurricular activities, and more. The legal preference is that both parents share in the responsibility of making these types of decisions for their child, but if certain circumstances dictate it, one parent can be given the right to make all legal decisions for the child. Physical custody refers to where the child lives after a divorce. A child can live with just one parent and have visitation time with the other, or the child can live with both parents for a split amount of time.

Sole versus Shared Parental Responsibility

When determining the structure of parental responsibility for a minor child in a divorce, the courts incorporate decisions about both legal and physical custody of the child and how it relates to the parents. A parent can either be granted sole or joint parental responsibility of the child, but the preference of the court is that both parents share in the responsibility. In a sole parental responsibility situation, one parent is granted both legal and physical custody of the child. This means that the child lives with and decisions are governed by one parent. The other, noncustodial parent gets no say in the day to day decisions about the child’s care and may be granted limited visitation rights; however, in some cases of sole parental responsibility the other parent may be barred from ever seeing their child.

In a joint parental responsibility situation, both parents share in the decision making regarding their child’s care, and the child splits time living with both parents. This does not mean that the child must live equally, 50/50, with each parent, but time is split where the child stays in the physical custody of both parents for a certain amount of time per year. Shared parental responsibility can be agreed upon by both parents and ratified by the court or ordered as part of the finalized divorce settlement.

Talk to a Lawyer Today

To learn more about sole and shared parental responsibility, call or contact the law office of Steve W. Marsee in Florida today to schedule an appointment.


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