DSC 1652 copy Child CustodyWHAT IS CUSTODY?

Gotcha!  This is actually a trick page. Remember when we told you on the Parenting Plan page that we don’t call it custody anymore?  That’s okay, click here to navigate to the Parenting Plan page for a refresher.

Well, since you are here, we’ll give you SOME information on the rights formerly known as “custody.”  Most states have two types:  physical custody, where the child lives, and legal custody, which is the decision-making for the child.  Florida has laws in place to govern those two concepts as well, but we use a different lingo.


“Physical custody” was born in the last generation where a child truly lived 80% of the time (or more) with one parent, so we would casually say that “the mom has custody.” That parenting arrangement has fallen into disfavor for a number of reasons. Psychological professionals tell us that all children benefit from frequent and continuing contact with both parents, and the younger they are, the more important frequent contact is. Additionally, in today’s society, mothers are more frequently in the workforce, so parents are more likely to both contribute to home as well as work duties.  The construct of the mother as the primary (or sole) caretaker of the children during the marriage has become outdated. As such, in the modern world, both parents have frequent time-sharing with the children, and they operate under a document called the Parenting Plan. Neither parent has what we used to call “physical custody.” In most cases, absent extenuating circumstances, both parents have frequent time-sharing.  Now we use the terms majority time-sharing and minority time-sharing.  Generalities aside, however, courts do consider the specific facts of every family’s circumstances and craft time-sharing schedules which fit each family’s specific needs, of which the parties’ historical parenting roles is a factor.


 “Legal custody” is what Florida calls Shared Parental Responsibility, and it covers making decisions for the children in three major areas:  education, health care, and religion.  These major decisions are shared between the parties (which means they must confer and agree upon them).  Shared Parental Responsibility is appropriate 99% of the time.  Sole Parental Responsibility is very rare, and justified only in cases where one parent is completely disinterested or out of the picture (think prison), has exhibited a pattern of making detrimental decisions for the child, or is incapable of making reasonable decisions for the child due to, for example, mental illness or substance abuse. A middle ground is Shared Parental Responsibility with one parent having Ultimate Decision-Making Authority, essentially a trump card to veto the other parent if they cannot agree. For more information about different available time-sharing schedules and options regarding  all types of Parental Responsibility, contact Sasso & Guerrero today for a consult.