Child Custody


Under current Florida law, parents have shared responsibility for the care, custody, and control of their children unless the court determines that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child.  The concept of shared parental responsibility was introduced by legislation in 1982 and still governs custody disputes between the parents of children born out of wedlock as well as disputes between married parents.

Parents who don't live together will have shared parental responsibility unless the court determines shared responsibility is detrimental to the child.  Shared parental responsibility is a court-ordered relationship by which both parents retain full parental rights and responsibilities with respect to their children.  The parents are required to confer with one another so that major decisions affecting the welfare of the child will be determined jointly.  This means that they share the decision-making ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????responsibilities and physical custody of their minor children.

Even when shared responsibility is ordered, the court may allocate the responsibilities between parents.  For instance, one parent may be given control over all decisions relating to education, or medical concerns. A court that gives one parent exclusive authority to make certain decisions must delineate the specific aspects over which the parent will have the ultimate authority.  A decision to designate one parent as the ultimate decision maker regarding a specific aspect of the child's welfare must be based on the child's best interest.


For the parents of minor children, formulating a Parenting Plan that works for both parents and is to the best benefit of the children can be the most complicated, and emotional, legal issue.

In 2008, Florida law eliminated the terms 'custody' and "visitation" and replaced with the term "timesharing" and established that written "Parenting Plans" must be established in parental responsibility proceedings utilizing the "best-interest" (of the child) factors set forth in the 2008 legislative ammendments.  Significantly, the presumption against rotating custody - an arrangement in which both parents have equal amounts of time with the child-was eliminated.  Florida law has eliminated the terms "custodial parent", "primary residential parent", "non-custodial parent", and "primary residence".  More neutral terms such as "parent" and "timesharing" have replaced the older terms.

In Florida, a "Parenting Plan" governs the rights and duties of parents with regard to making decisions concerning their child and spending time with the child.  The Parenting Plan must be agreed to by the parties and approved by the court.  If the parents cannot agree to the terms of a Parenting Plan, the court will establish one.

Pensacola Divorce and Family Law Attorney Mary G. McDaniel works closely with her clients to identify and develop Parenting Plans that not only address the best interests of the client's children, but also incorporates each client's preferences and unique needs. The mental and physical well-being of client's and their children, their safety and their happiness, is always of the highest importance in developing a successful Parenting Plan.


A Time-Sharing schedule must describe in detail how the parents will share and be responsible for the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the child; the time the child will spend with each parent; and which parent is responsible for school-related matters, health care, other activities and the ways in which the parents will communicate the child when the child is with the other parent.  The best interests of the child are the primary consideration in creating and modifying parenting plans.

The Time-Sharing schedule must be included in the Parenting Plan and must specify the time, including overnights and holidays, that a minor child will spend with each parent.  If the parents can't agree on a schedule, the court will create one.

The Time-Sharing schedule should reflect the child's best interest.  Pensacola Divorce and Family Law Attorney Mary McDaniel will work with you to create a schedule that is best for children, reflects her client's preferences and unique needs, and maintains a sense of routine and stability for minor children.


When parents of a minor child have never been married, action may be required to establish paternity. Paternity can be legally established through DNA testing, a court order, or by simple agreement of the parents. Once paternity is established a parenting plan and child support can be legally established for the parties.