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How Are Child Custody And Parental Responsibilities Different?


If you are a parent who is currently going through divorce or plan to file sometime soon, you might be confused by some terminology that is very important to your case. Historically, you have probably heard the term child custody used in connection with divorce and are familiar with the basics. On the other hand, there is the Florida statute on parenting and time-sharing that focuses on parental responsibilities. You might see both language about child custody and parental responsibilities used interchangeably or overlapping.

To resolve the confusion, it is helpful to know that parental responsibilities cover many of the same concepts as what you know about child custody. The terminology serves as an update and to be more descriptive, rather than a change to the statutes or introduction of new laws. Your rights as a parent remain the same in a divorce case, so make sure to protect them with help from an Orlando child custody lawyer. Some background information is also informative. 

Custody and Parental Responsibilities: Child custody is the familiar term, but parental responsibilities is more descriptive and useful in understanding the legal aspects. Custody involves how parents make the important decisions regarding how to raise the child, such as:

  • Education;
  • Extracurricular activities, sports, and recreation;
  • Medical care;
  • Participation in religion;
  • Travel and entertainment; and,
  • Many others.

One decision that is part of parental responsibilities is determining where the child will live, but it is not accurate to say that the parent who owns the home where the child spends most nights “has custody.” The key is decision making, not residence alone. 

Types of Child Custody: Florida family laws take the position that a child benefits by having a relationship with both parents, so courts will usually award joint custody in a divorce case. Both parents have equal say with decision making, and the arrangement is often called co-parenting or shared parenting. In situations where the child’s health and safety are threatened, such as in domestic abuse, a judge may order sole custody. Only one parent is allowed to make decisions.

Determinations on parental responsibilities do affect other aspects of raising the child, including visitation and child support.

Child’s Best Interests: When a court must make a decision on custody, the judge must review certain factors that are set by statute. The same is true when parents come up with an agreed-upon parenting plan, in which case the court wants to ensure that their agreement complies with the law. There are multiple factors to assess, and they generally focus on the child’s safety, well-being, and relationship with each parent. 

Reach Out to a Central Florida Child Custody Attorney Today

This overview should clear up confusion about child custody and parental responsibilities, but you can see how the concepts are still complicated when considering the child’s best interests. Our team at Greater Orlando Family Law is prepared to assist with your case, so please contact us right away. You can call 407-377-6399 or go online to schedule a consultation.



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