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 with them.
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!”