Ultimate decision making authority Florida in a paternity or a divorce parenting plan is about ensuring the best interests of the children are met. Shared parental responsibility with ultimate decision making authority means that according to the parenting plan, one parent will be able to make most if not all major decisions for the children. In this type of an agreement, parental responsibility will be “shared” and the parties must confer about major decisions impacting the minor children, but, ultimately, the parent with ultimate decision making authority over major decisions for the minor children has the authority to make the final decision. There is an important exception/caveat to this authority. Call us at 407-335-8113 to speak with a divorce attorney and a family law attorney today.
An exception to ultimate decision making authority Florida was recently propounded by the Fourth District Court of Appeal in the case of Clarke v. Stofft, 263 So. 3d 84 (Fla. 4th DCA 2019). The Court has added that if a parent is awarded shared parental responsibility with ultimate decision making authority, the parenting plan or the court must specify the areas wherein the parent will have this authority. It is not sufficient that this authority is generally stated without any identification of what those issues are that impact the kids.
Tie-Breaking Vote in Shared Parental Responsibility with Ultimate Decision Making Authority
Ultimate decision making authority Florida is often colloquially referred to as the “tie-breaking vote” in parental authority designations. This goes back to the principle that both parents must confer (hence why it is shared parental responsibility with ultimate decision making authority) on all major decisions impacting the minor child (at least those specified in the parenting plan), however, one parent has the tie-breaking vote if there is a disagreement.
What are some examples of shared parental responsibility with ultimate decision making authority and the tie-breaking vote being exercised by the parent with the additional authority? Hypothetical: Suppose Mom has ultimate decision making authority and the parenting plan specifies she has this authority over mental-health decisions impacting the child. The minor child has been disruptive at school and may need mental health counseling. Mom tells Dad about this issue, after which the parties spend hours discussing the child’s mental health, and then Dad refuses to consent to allowing the child to be seen by a counselor. Does Mom have the right to allow the child to see the mental health professional without the father’s consent? This is a tricky issue. On the one hand, Mom has the tie-breaking vote and the parenting plan allows her to make this decision. However, Dad’s consent in some circumstances may be required for the child to be seen by a mental health care professional. In a situation like this, if the parties need additional clarification, they may at any time for a motion for clarification or a motion for enforcement for an additional ruling from the court on this important issue. Shared parental responsibility with ultimate decision making authority is not always as clear an issue as one might imagine.
Hypothetical 2: Dad has the ultimate decision making authority Florida and tells the Mom that he wants to enroll the minor child in karate or tae kwon do for the child to learn self-defense. Mom disagrees with this and explains her objections to the child being enrolled in an allegedly dangerous sport. Mom refuses to give her consent. However, the parenting plan does not address this specific type of authority over extra-curricular activities. It is possible that despite Dad having the tie-breaking vote, this case could be one that needs to go before the court for further adjudication because the issue of extracurricular activities was not contemplated in the parenting plan and final judgment.
Jonathan Jacobs is a divorce attorney in Orlando and family law attorney in Clermont Florida. We work with clients when they need help with their divorce and family law cases. Our areas of practice include same sex divorce, paternity petitions, parenting plans, alimony, and child support matters.