Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Child Custody

A parent’s right to make decisions affecting the welfare of a child is considered to be so important in Florida family law that there is a presumption that equal decision-making authority for both parents is in the best interest of the child. This is called shared parental responsibility. However, under certain circumstances, a Florida family court will award sole decision-making authority to one parent. 

In the case  Clarke v. Stofft, 4D18-106 (Fla. 4th DCA 2018), the trial court awarded shared parental responsibility with ultimate decision-making authority to the mother, noting, “If the parents cannot agree as to any major decision; the Mother shall have ultimate decision-making authority.” The father appealed this provision, arguing it was too open-ended and gave the mother essentially unfettered control over decisions affecting the children. 

The appellate court agreed with the father, citing previous Florida case law which discussed an order that “fails to specify concrete aspects of the children's lives that the [designated parent] will have ultimate decision-making authority over. By using the phrase, ‘include, but are not limited to,’ the court left the [designated parent's] decision-making authority open-ended. This problem is compounded by the additional language: ‘and other responsibilities unique to this family.’ This leaves open all decisions affecting the children.” Thus, the case was remanded to the trial court with instructions to limit the mother’s decision-making authority to specific issues and to expressly list those issues in the final judgment.  

Parental responsibility is such an important right that it should not be left to chance. Contact a Miami child custody lawyer for a consultation to learn about your best case strategy.