Every so often we answer questions and post them on our website. If we
think someone else may benefit from the information we feel we should
share it. A question that recently came up was:
My former wife is the primary residential parent of the children but she
never involves me or keeps me up to date in reference to what is going
on in the children’s lives. Is that allowed just because she is
the primary residential parent?
The answer to this question is “NO”, unless the court has awarded
her sole parental responsibility of the children, which is an unusual
circumstance. In this case, I will assume that this is not one of those
unusual circumstances, and that you and the mother of the children have
what is called shared parental responsibility.
So the next logical question is, what is shared parental responsibility?
The State of Florida has established a public policy that encourages parents
to share in the rights and responsibilities of the children they have
in common. Both parents retain full parental rights and responsibility
of the children, and should confer with one another when they are making
any major decisions regarding the children. These rights and responsibilities
include, but are not limited to, education, medical and religious matters.
The purpose of shared parental responsibility is to make sure the children
are the number one priority. It is the parent’s responsibility to
ensure that the children continue a loving, and open relationship with
both parents. Neither parent may alienate a child’s affection for
the other parent; they should never degrade the other parent or allow
any other person to do so in the presence of the children.
Other matters involving shared parent responsibility is the welfare of
the children. Each parent must notify the other parent promptly of any
serious illness or accident affecting the children. Keep in mind that
if it is an emergency situation, you do not have to get the other parent’s
permission to seek medical treatment for the child, take the child to
the emergency room and immediately contact the other parent and inform
them of the situation.
A few examples of parental responsibility are:
Whenever the children receive progress reports or report cards from school,
the primary residential parent should make copies of these items and provide
them to the non-residential parent. This can help keep the non-residential
parent involved in two ways: (1) He/She is also able to praise the children
for their good work in school and, (2) If the children are doing poorly
in school, the non-residential parent also has the opportunity to help
the children improve their grades when the children are exercising visitation
Whenever the children are participating in any extra-curricular activities,
both parents are allowed to be present. For example, if any of the children
are involved in sports, just because it is not the non-residential parent’s
scheduled weekend with the children, it does not mean that the non-residential
parent is not allowed to go to the park and enjoy the ball game too. What
the court encourages is for both parents to be in attendance, not necessarily
seated together, but at least showing a united front in providing support
for the child. Despite the parents divorcing one another, neither parent
is ending the relationship with the children they have in common.
There is one thing I always like to explain to prospective clients that
are in the process of obtaining a divorce, “Remember, you have children
in common for the rest of your lives, you will attend functions where
the other parent will be present, you will have grandchildren in common,
so be as courteous as possible to one another, not for your sake, but
for the children you both to love so much!”