In my Tampa office, parents come to me all of the time and say they want “sole custody.” Maybe they are having an argument with the other parent. Maybe they just don’t get along. So parents figure that the solution is to be the only one to have decision making authority over their child.
In the video below, social worker Gary Direnfeld challenges the assumptions behind requests for sole custody.
One thing to note is that, in Florida, the term “sole custody” is no longer used. Rather, parents can request “sole parental responsibility.” This means that only one parent has the right to make major decisions concerning a child. Major decisions include healthcare and education.
Sole Custody is Rarely Granted
Further, sole parental responsibility is rarely ordered by a judge. Section 61.13 of the Florida Statutes advises that a judge can only grant a request for sole parental responsibility if joint decision making would be detrimental to a child. The statute gives as examples of detriment that a parent has been convicted of domestic violence or otherwise abuses the child.
So, just because you and your co-parent do not get along, this is not a basis for a judge to order “sole custody.”
Gary makes a great point in the video: requesting sole custody is a declaration of war. “The moment that you raise [sole custody], odds are you are going to court. That is a terrible place to make these kinds of decisions…That doesn’t make for good ongoing parenting relationships. So before you run headlong thinking that you need sole decision making authority, do give it a second thought.”
A Collaborative Alternative
Rather than going to court, in most cases your child will be much better off if you choose an out-of-court form of dispute resolution such as collaborative divorce. In collaborative divorce, you can bring on board a child specialist. A child specialist will meet with your child and voice his or her interests and concerns. This allows your child’s concerns and viewpoint to be incorporated into your parenting plan.
Do you have questions about protecting your child via the collaborative process? Schedule a meeting with Family Diplomacy: A Collaborative Law Firm at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.
Adam B. Cordover is a leading collaborative attorney and co-author of an upcoming American Bar Association on collaborative law. Adam offers collaborative services in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Sarasota, and Manatee counties and throughout the State of Florida.