Filing for Parental Responsibility in Florida: 4 Steps

Since child custody is no longer a term the Florida government uses, parents here don't file for custody. Instead, they request orders for a parenting plan, time-sharing schedule and child support by filing a case in family court. This initiates the litigation process.

If you hire a lawyer, they'll prepare and file the forms for you. If you're representing yourself, follow the steps below.

If you and the other parent agree on all issues, submit your settlement agreement in Step 2 along with your other forms.

Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.

Make My Florida Plan Now

Step 1: Complete your family court forms

The forms below have been approved by the Florida Supreme Court for use in any county. Ask your county clerk's office whether it prefers certain versions or requires additional forms. Some counties may allow you to complete forms online.

All forms should be typed or printed in black ink, and many require you to sign in front of a court clerk or a notary public.

All parental responsibility and time-sharing cases need a cover sheet, a Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act Affidavit and a Child Support Guidelines Worksheet.

Then complete the forms that apply to your case below:

Your case might require additional Florida family court forms:

Step 2: File your family court forms and pay fees

Your case officially begins when you file the initial petition with your local circuit court. The parent who opens the case is referred to as the petitioner, while the other parent is the respondent. Both are referred to as litigants.

You can submit paperwork in person to the circuit court clerk, or you can file through the Florida Courts E-Filing Portal. If you choose the second option, the majority of your court communication and paperwork will be electronic. (Review the e-filing rules, and note that forms with notarized signatures must be scanned.)

You'll have to pay fees. Petitions usually cost between $300 and $500 each. In addition, one parent will have to prove that they've been a Florida resident for at least six months by providing a copy of their driver's license, state ID or voter registration card.

The clerk will return copies of paperwork to you for the next step.

Step 3: Serve the other parent

After filing, the petitioner must formally notify the respondent through a process called service.

Take your court paperwork to the sheriff's office or a private processing server to have them deliver it to the respondent. The sheriff generally charges less than a private server. If the other parent can't be located for service, contact the court clerk.

Step 4: Wait for the other parent to respond

The other parent must file a response to your petition (or request an extension) within 20 days of service. They're also required to serve you with copies of their response.

The respondent has the option to contest your petition, i.e., to challenge some or all of it. They can add a counterpetition to request something not included your filing or to propose an alternative, such as a different time-sharing schedule.

Or the respondent can file an uncontested response, which means they agree with your petition and don't want to challenge anything. They may still file a counterpetition to request something additional.

If they file a counterpetition, you'll need to file an Answer to Counterpetition.

If the other parent doesn't respond or request an extension before the deadline, you can file a Motion for Default. Once the judge approves your motion, the case proceeds without the other parent's involvement.

Information for respondents

When you're served with the a petition, you must respond within 20 days.

Your response paperwork depends on your situation. Possible forms include:

You can e-file or submit your response to the clerk's office in person. You also must serve the other parent with copies of your response (instructions in Step 3).

If you miss the deadline and the other parent is granted a default motion, you can file a Motion to Set Aside Default Judgment. You'll need to provide an explanation and evidence of why you didn't respond on time.

Department of Revenue (DOR) Child Support Program

In some circumstances, parents may obtain paternity, child support or time-sharing orders from the Department of Revenue Child Support Program. These orders can be issued in conjunction with orders from your family court case after you follow the steps above.

If parents don't need a divorce or parental responsibility and time-sharing decisions, they can skip the family court steps above and instead go through the DOR's process.

Preparing for what comes next

The next step in the family court process depends on your situation. If parents agree on everything requested in petitions and counterpetitions, they can move on to the settlement process. Otherwise, both parents will need to attend a parenting class within 45 days.

No matter what's next for you, take advantage of technology to be fully prepared.

The Custody X Change online app offers custom time-sharing calendars, parent-to-parent messaging, an expense tracker and more.

You can use the app in many ways in Florida: to put together proposals for the other parent, negotiate, prepare settlement paperwork or organize evidence.

Be prepared for every step of your case with Custody X Change.

Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.

Make My Florida Plan Now

Explore examples of common schedules

Explore common schedules

Join the 60,000+ other parents who have used our co-parenting tools

Organize your evidence

Track your expenses, journal what happens, and record actual time. Print organized, professional documents.

Co-parent civilly

Our parent-to-parent messaging system, which detects hostile language, lets you collaborate without the drama.

Get an accurate child support order

Child support is based on parenting time or overnights in most jurisdictions. Calculate time instead of estimating.

Succeed by negotiating

Explore options together with visual calendars and detailed parenting plans. Present alternatives and reach agreement.

Never forget an exchange or activity

Get push notifications and email reminders, sync with other calendar apps and share with the other parent.

Save up to $50,000 by avoiding court

Write your parenting agreement without lawyers. Our templates walk you through each step.

Make My Plan

Bring calm to co‑parenting. Agree on a schedule and plan. Be prepared with everything documented.

Make My Florida Plan Now

No thanks, I don't need a parenting plan