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Co-Parenting Roles in Florida: A Closer Look


In the first half of the twentieth century, divorced fathers almost always received full custody of their children. Women had few legal or financial rights at the time. After World War II, the pendulum swung in the other direction, with the advent of the tender years doctrine. In this environment, divorced mothers almost always received full custody of their children. Generally, courts applied the tender years doctrine and did not ask too many questions.

Today, Florida, like most other states, has a co-parenting law. Both parents are encouraged to take an active role in a child’s life, at least in most cases. The Sunshine State has done away with labels like managing and possessory conservator. Additionally, “parenting time” has replaced terms like custody and visitation. Nevertheless, the roles remain much the same, at least in many ways.

Basic Rules

To better reflect the new co-parenting requirement, Florida lawmakers slightly changed some of the factors which judges use to determine a child’s best interests. Some of these factors include:

  • Educational, medical, and other background of each child,
  • Parent’s fitness,
  • Maintaining consistency for the child, and
  • Relationship between each parent and each child.

Winter Park family law attorneys must be mindful of all these factors during settlement negotiations. Most judges will not approve settlements which do not reflect the best interests of the children.

Co-parenting is not appropriate in all situations. For example, verified allegations of domestic violence usually trigger limited visitation privileges. However, co-parenting is the order of the day in almost all cases.

Residential Parents

Some Winter Park family law attorneys still use terms like “custodial parent” to describe a residential parent. These parents have primary physical custody of a child. They also have primary legal custody. Residential parents usually make the final decision in areas like education and healthcare for the children.

Residential parents have a significant responsibility. Not all fathers or mothers are up to the task. Other fathers and mothers are unwilling to assume this role. Frequently, residential parents must be both a “fun” parent and a “discipline” parent. They must plan and participate in kid-friendly activities while also enforcing rules like going to bed early and brushing teeth regularly.

These responsibilities vary with a child’s age. Very young children need virtually 24/7 hands-on care. This need decreases slightly when children start school. By the time children are teenagers, a parent’s role might be more supportive than anything else.

Nonresidential Parents

This role is not easy either. In the old days, ghost parenting was acceptable. These possessory conservators paid their child support on time but invested little time in their children’s lives.

Ghost parenting is still acceptable in some situations. But frequently, more is expected. Nonresidential parents must take more of an active role. That means things like attending school performances, regularly communicating with the children while they are with the other parent, and acting like a parent during their parenting time periods.

Once again, a nonresidential parent’s role changes as children get older. Active parenting becomes more passive. However, the requirement to be a mom or dad never changes.

Contact a Tenacious Lawyer

The expected role of a divorced parent has changed significantly in the twenty-first century. For a confidential consultation with an experienced Winter Park child custody attorney, contact The Troum Law Firm, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Orange County and nearby jurisdictions.


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