1300 W Eau Gallie Blvd ste a, Melbourne, FL 32935 info@torresmediation.com

Call Now For Service!

(321) 821-9995

The Challenges of Co-Parenting in Florida

Date Posted: August 4, 2023 2:42 am

The Challenges of Co-Parenting in Florida

Despite the best intentions, co-parenting in Florida comes with a unique set of challenges. These hurdles often arise from the complexities of Florida child custody laws and the emotional aftermath of divorce that children and parents must navigate.

Legal Complexities

One of the foremost challenges of co-parenting in Florida lies in understanding the intricate Florida family law. The legal structure of joint custody in Florida can often overwhelm parents. In Florida, both parents must submit a co-parenting plan outlining details about the child’s upbringing, including education, health care, and physical, social, and emotional well-being. Please agree on a plan to avoid the court deciding one.

Florida law also mandates that the non-custodial parent must usually pay child support. Understanding how these payments work and ensuring they are made on time can be a significant challenge.

Emotional Challenges

Besides the legal complexities, divorce, and children constitute a complicated emotional landscape. Dealing with their own emotional upheaval while ensuring the child’s emotional well-being can be difficult for parents. This makes clear and open communication in co-parenting critical.

However, conflict is almost inevitable in these circumstances, and conflict resolution in co-parenting can be a substantial challenge. Parents might find themselves in disagreements on issues ranging from childrearing methods to differences in lifestyle choices.

Working together as a parental unit is extremely difficult when the parents’ lives are diverging with different interests, different priorities, limited cash flow and varying schedules.  The courts prefer that both parents participate in the lives of the children.  The most common decision-making category for separated parents is shared parental responsibility.

Raising children is challenging.  Emotionally healthy children have both parents involved in their lives.  Children want to have a connection even with a “bad” parent, or at least have it be the child’s choice if the relationship is fractured.  The role of the parent is important to a child’s development.  When parents are no longer living in the same home the ability to co-parent requires more conscious efforts to communicate, share decision-making and project a positive perception for both parents.


F..S. 61.13 (D)(2)( c )(2) states that The court shall order that the parental responsibility for a minor child be shared by both parents unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child.  When parents exercise Shared Parental Responsibility (SPR) both parents have equal decision-making authority for the child.  The most important feature of SPR is that the parents communicate and DISCUSS important parenting decisions that involve the child before a commitment is made.  Usually, this includes decisions regarding medical care, education and religion.   Either parent can stand as responsible for making decisions of the child without the necessity of co-signatures, or mutual agreement.  However, if the other parent objects, the objecting parent has the remedy of asking the court to decide what is “in the best interest of the child,” as the parents cannot agree.   This sometimes occurs on topics such as home schooling, prescription medicines (like ADD meds.) and scheduling extra-curricular activities that take place over the parenting time of both parents.


An intermediate classification of SPR can occur when the court orders or the parents agree to Shared Parental Responsibility with Designated Decision-Making (SPR-DD) for one of the parents.   It is expected that the parents will still discuss the decisions on important topics of child rearing, but if the parents cannot agree, one parent is identified as the one who will make the final decision on that topic.  This might take place when one parent is more involved with medical care, or has superior medical knowledge.  A parent who has more contact with the school, or more responsibility for the child’s homework and school projects could be decided to exercise SPR-DD over educational matters.   Some professionals don’t endorse this classification as it can be argued that there is no real duty to include the other parent in discussions and amounts to another form of Sole Parental Responsibility.


This designation of one parent as having sole decision-making authority for the child is not preferred, as there isn’t an expectation that the other parent will be involved in the child’s life.  This may occur when one parent is absent from the child’s life, has a proven record of behavior that may be harmful to the child, or when the other parent is unavailable for an extended time which limits interaction with the child.   Asking a court to enter this type of parental decision-making is very difficult it there is not objective evidence to show that there could be harm to the child, or it may not be in ‘the child’s best interest’, for the non-designated parent to make decisions or take responsibility for the child. A claim by one parent that the other parent makes bad parenting decisions, disagrees on child-rearing practices or is generally undependable is not usually enough for a court to take away a parent’s shared decision-making rights.


For parents who have trouble staying focused on the topics regarding the child when they speak to one another, there are Parenting Apps available to input information and receive notices when the other parent enters data.  Parents can enter scheduling information, copies of reports, copies of receipts and messages to the other parent.  The information is time-stamped for when it was entered and when it was viewed.  Copies of the print out are admissible in court to indicate that communication has taken place, or has not occurred and what the content of the communication may be.   This limits harassment, threats, divergence into personal communications and claims of a failure to be informed by the other party.   The cost of these programs can be $100 – $150 per year, and can be shared by the parents.   Look into Talking Parents, or My Family Wizard.


In Florida, parents are required to participate in a Parenting Class when they create a Parenting Plan.  This applies to non-married parents as well as divorcing parents.   Courses can be found online (go to the Clerk of Court’s website for approved providers in your Circuit) and usually are taken virtually.   The focus of these classes is on being responsible and nurturing parents.   The  rules and guidelines that come from this course can be called the “Be Nice” provisions.   Basically, they encourage the parents to communicate directly with each other, not through the children and to pay attention to what is harmful to the child.


The Most important aspects of successful co-parenting are:

  • Current and Accurate Information Sharing
  • Promoting positive perceptions of the other parent
  • Avoiding conflict and tension with the child as it relates to his/her parents.

Example provisions in the Parents’ Rights and Responsibilities Section may include:

  1. Access to medical and school records and authority to confer with school staff and medical providers.
  2. Equal rights to inspect and receive governmental agency and law enforcement records concerning the child.
  3. Identification of both parents as “emergency contacts” for the child.
  4. The responsibility of each parent to supply accurate contact information to the other parent.
  5. A duty to notify the other parent of any serious illness or emergency that may arise with the child.
  6. An expectation that the parents will not argue or discuss any problems during pick up and return time.
  7. A responsibility for both parents to foster love and respect between the child and the other parent.
  8. A directive for both parents to be adaptable in accommodating changing needs and schedules.
  9. An admonishment not to use the child as a messenger.  Both parents shall directly speak to each other about all matters concerning the child.,
  10. An obligation that neither parent will discuss the divorce/litigation or any of its problems with the child in a way which casts fault on the other parent or influence the child to take sides with either parent.
  11. An expectation that neither parent will question the child about the social life or activities of the other parent or make the child uncomfortable when mentioning the other parent.
  12. A directive that neither parent shall use threats or limit contact with the child with the other parents as punishment or to coerce the other parent.
  13. Guidance that neither parent will schedule any event or time usage that will interfere with the time the other parent is entitled to without first consulting the other parent.
  14. Clarification that when restricting the use of the child’s cell phone, the limitation shall not be applicable to contact with the other parent.

A search online can procure other common terms to include in a Parenting Plan.  It is also an option to add additional terms and mutual covenants to your Parenting Plan  based on specific problems you may have experienced with co-parenting.


Following the provisions of information sharing and parental responsibilities is aspirational and difficult for a court to enforce.  Excessive or continuous disregard for the “Be Nice” provisions can be cause for one parent to file a Motion for Contempt against the other parent.   The court can also consider the failure to follow these reasonable expectations of behavior when one parent is asking for provisions in his/her favor or which may be more punitive towards the other parent.  It is imperative that each parent be aware of his/her own actions and act accordingly.   It is impossible to control another person’s behavior, but each person can control their own.


When a court is addressing which direction to proceed, or whether to put in place a court order, the court will look to what is “In the Best Interest” of the child for guidance.  See F.S. 61.13 (3).    Both parents are usually adamant that each of them is acting in a way that best represents what is best for their child.   When the parents cannot agree, the court may decide the dispute.   The court does not put great weight on convenience, differences in parenting styles, or personal prejudices of the parents, unless any of these impact what the court considers is ‘in the best interest’ of the child.  The court will consider the practical aspects of meeting the child’s needs, maximizing the parenting time with the child’s biological parent, and indications of attempts at parental alienation.  Other factors can be considered by Florida Statute 61.13 (3).

Points to Consider:

  • Courts do not punish parents for working.  It is not expected that timesharing schedules will only take place when the parent is not working.
  • Both parents have the responsibility to select appropriate childcare providers, and make reasonable parenting decisions when the child is with them.
  • Restricting the interaction of the child with other people is not usually encouraged, unless a particular person is known or shown to be a danger to the child, or the parents agree to limit who the child may spend time with.
  • Even “bad” parents are permitted timesharing with their child, and can also exercise shared parental responsibility.
  • Equal and shared decision-making authority can take place even when timesharing is not equal.
  • Parents cannot dictate the lifestyle, companions or habits of the other parent.  The parents can agree to any restrictions on particular concerns if they would like to include that in the parenting plan.


It is quite common for a child to express differing views to each parent.  A child is motivated not to upset the parent or cause a confrontation.  When the parents cannot agree on issues that involve the preferences of the child, it is helpful to engage the services of a child therapist.  A counselor, or therapist will be an objective professional to whom the child can turn for expression of a genuine opinion.   The therapist can also provide guidance on when a child might be ready to take the next step, or when other resources and interventions may be advisable.

Every child that goes through traumatic changes in their family life and transitions to a different household can experience anxiety.  Florida Statutes 61.13(2)(b)(3)(a) provides that either parent may consent to mental health treatment for the child, as part of the Parenting Plan.  This does not however prohibit the other parenting from sharing in the decision as to which counselor is appropriate or prevent the other parent from filing a motion with the court in objection.

There are specialty areas in counseling children of divorce, which include:

  • Overcoming the impact of parental alienation
  • Re-introduction plans for a parent who has been absent
  • Safety concerns, fear or intimidation within one parent’s household
  • Family counseling to address dynamics within the family
  • Individual counseling for anxiety, disruptive behaviors, and coping strategies

Caution: Most therapists will not reveal to the parent the issues that the child has raised, unless required by law to do so.  Also, many therapists will not testify in court, or provide a report with recommendations to follow.  Please check with the mental health professional you choose for what information may be conveyed to the parent and/or utilized in a court proceeding.


Parenting, in the best of circumstances, is fraught with missteps, power struggles and high emotions.  The courts work on the presumption that children should have the involvement of both parents in their lives.  Being able to communicate and demonstrate respect for the other parent are essential for successful co-parenting.  Resources are available to guide and assist in this journey to raise a happy and healthy child.  The first steps are to develop reasonable expectations of the revised parenting model and focus on the needs of the child as primary.  Regular and positive communication with the child will enhance the prospects for a successful relationship with your child, even with the new family dynamics.