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The difference between parental responsibility and time sharing

When officially ruling in child custody cases, Florida uses a pair of key terms: "Parental responsibility" and "time sharing." Though related, they are very different and it's important for parents to understand exactly what they mean.

Parental responsibility has little to do with time with the child and more to do with decision-making power. Parents have to make a number of choices for their children, and it's critical for divorcing parents to know who is responsible for these choices. Examples include:

  • Where the child is going to attend school.
  • What medical care the child will get.
  • If the child will be vaccinated.
  • What religion the child will be brought up in.

Time sharing, on the other hand, refers to the actual time a parent spends in the physical presence of the child. This could mean that time is split evenly between the parents; the child spends one week with Mom and the next week with Dad, for example. It could also mean that one parent is the primary caregiver and the other has smaller responsibilities, like taking the children on weekends. Important time sharing points include:

  • Who gets the kids on the holidays.
  • Who will pick the kids up from school.
  • When each parent can take summer vacations with the children.

Parental responsibility and time sharing may be divided evenly, especially in cases where the parents are on relatively good terms, but that's not always the case. For instance, one parent may get all of the time sharing responsibilities, while the other parent just visits the children. However, that second parent could still get joint parental responsibility rights, meaning both parents must confer about big choices in the children's lives.

As you go through the case, make sure you know your rights and how to address the children's best interests.

Source: The Spruce, "Child Custody in Florida," Debrina Washington, Oct. 23, 2017

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