When Parents Disagree, Who Decides?
The case of a Florida mother who went into hiding to prevent her four-year-old son’s circumcision is headed to federal court. The case raises the question of who decides when parents, operating under a shared parenting plan, disagree on what is, and is not, in their child’s best interests.
Shared Decision Making under a Florida Parenting Plan
During a Boca Raton child custody hearing, the default is for the judge to award shared parental responsibility. This gives both parents the right to make decisions regarding their child’s health, education, religious upbringing, and all other matters that parents routinely decide for their children. A shared parenting plan, then, requires that parents discuss important issues and come to a consensus – not unlike how they would come to a decision if they were still married.
But what happens when the parents cannot agree? If the couple were married, perhaps one parent would covertly do what they wanted. Yet that is not an option when there is a court order in place that requires the parents to confer and agree on all decisions. In such cases, the only option – as shown in the case of this Florida mother – is to file an action in court and ask the judge to decide.
In any case involving children brought before the court, the judge will base his decision on what is in the child’s best interest. Depending on the issue before the judge, the court may consider:
- Testimony from both parents regarding their reason for or against the issue at hand;
- Medical evidence, if the decision pertains to a medical procedure that one parent wants performed;
- Evidence regarding the child’s educational performance, including behavioral issues, if the issue at hand is where the child should attend school;
- Testimony from the child’s counselor or therapist regarding his emotional well-being;
- Testimony from friends or family members, and;
- The child’s preference, if he is of an age to give one.
One important note: To avoid having the circumcision performed on her son, the mother in this case fled with the child, presumably to a women’s shelter. This is not advisable under any circumstances. Depriving the other parent of his right to custody of, or visitation with, the child can lead to charges of contempt for violating a court order, can be used as evidence to support a modification of the parenting plan, and can also lead to criminal charges of kidnapping. If you and the child’s other parent disagree on a decision regarding the child, meet with an attorney immediately. A petition can be filed seeking to halt the action pending a full consideration by the court.
How a Boca Raton Child Custody Attorney Can Help
If you find yourself at odds with your child’s other parent regarding any decision, the Boca Raton family law attorneys at Schwartz ι White can help. Our attorneys have more than 50 years’ combined experience helping parents settle disputes over decisions regarding their child. Our goal is to reach a mutually agreeable resolution with the other parent. Barring that, we have the knowledge and skill to argue your case in court. Call us at 561.391.9943, or complete our online contact form, to schedule an appointment today.