Is a Court Bound by the Recommendation of a Child's Therapist?

It is the intent of Florida law, that the trial court have executive decision making of time sharing arrangements. Florida judges are required to apply the "best interest" standard in making decisions concerning time sharing and parental responsibility of children.  In any decision involving a child, even one where an expert was provided an opinion, where two parents have an agreed upon arrangement, the court must evaluate the best interest of a child when making a decision concerning that child's relationship with their parent. 

Florida Statute 61.046 (15) includes in the definition of a "parenting plan recommendation" the term "a non-binding recommendation." Florida appellate courts have similarly held it is improper for trial courts to delegate the authority of making time sharing determinations, even to those appointed by the court to make recommendations, "it is the trial court's responsibility to ensure that an appropriate relationship is maintained between a parent and his or her children, and that responsibility "cannot be abdicated to any parent or expert". Simply put, "the trial court cannot delegate its authority to another person to rule on the visitation details." The trial court must ensure that an appropriate relationship is maintained… and it cannot delegate its responsibility to set the visitation details." 

In a case similar to the instant case, where a father wanted the court to rule on the merits of his case rather than agreement he had entered upon with former wife, the First District Court looked to Florida Statutes 61.13. The court interpreted this statute as "unequivocally providing that a trial court is required and a proceeding initiated under the chapter to "determine all matters relating to parenting and time sharing of each minor child of the parties in accordance with the best interests of the child and in accordance with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act." The court went on to further state "there is no stated exception to this requirement."  The court further expanded, "It is undisputed, and should be indisputable, that a trial court's responsibility to the child cannot be abdicated to any parent, any expert. That heavy responsibility mandates that a court is not bound by any agreement between parents, nor by the opinions of any experts or group of experts." As noted by the reviewing court the "best interests of the children are to govern the custody decision, regardless of any stipulation between the parties."

Kenny Leigh & Associates is a law firm that exclusively represents men in the area of family law in the State of Florida.  Go to for more questions.

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