What You Should Know About Florida Parenting Plans
Florida statutes mandate that all divorce cases involving minor children include a parenting plan which is submitted to the Court. It can be drafted by the parents if the divorce is uncontested or drafted by the Court if the matter proceeds to trial. The primary purpose of a parenting plan is to set forth each parent’s timesharing schedule with his or her children. This is because Courts focus on the best interest of the children when ordering timesharing. There is substantial empirical evidence that children survive divorce and become healthy and happy adults when they are able to maintain relationships with both parents after the divorce.
Generally, a parenting plan outlines the rights and responsibilities of each parent and it sets forth a “default” parenting schedule should there be a conflict between the parents as to any particular timesharing event. If the matter is uncontested, the parents jointly submit their proposed parental timesharing plan to the court, and then a judge decides whether to approve or disapprove it. A judge may reject a parenting plan outright, or alternatively, a judge may exercise his or her discretion to make any necessary changes to a parenting plan in order to achieve the statutory mandates. If the matter proceeds to trial, the court will fashion the parenting plan based on the evidence submitted during trial.
Judges prefer that parents come together in a divorce case and agree about the timesharing schedule and incorporate that schedule into their parenting plan. When parents cannot agree, whether or not they are represented by counsel, the court will refer them to mediation to address the matter, and any other issues pending in the divorce. When deemed appropriate, the Court may also refer the parties to a parenting coordinator or mental health professional. The court has great latitude in protecting children and the familial relationship after divorce.
What Should Be Included in a Parenting Plan?
Parenting plans might seem a bit complex in genera; however, there are great resources to assist parents in developing a parenting plan. First, if assisted by counsel, the parent can rely on counsel to draft a parenting plan that is legally sufficient and factually consistent with that particular case. Alternatively, when parents proceed without counsel, each circuit also has resources to assist parents. These resources include mediation services to assist in the negotiations. The resources also include some level of local court services and family law forms, both of which provide important information needed for each parenting plan. Notwithstanding, it is always wise to consult an attorney before starting to work on a parenting plan. An expert, such as a family law attorney, can provide the best advice when creating a specific parenting plan.
Though parenting plan vary somewhat, below is a brief checklist of the common parenting plan topics to consider:
- Parenting/time-sharing schedule: This is the time each parent will spend with the child or children. There are a variety of timesharing schedules. Most jurisdictions have parenting schedules which are preferred by all judges and ordered in most cases unless special circumstances demand otherwise. The good news is that most new parenting plans include substantial time with each parent. The old alternating weekend schedule is essentially gone.
- Co-parent communication: This section will set forth details about how parents will share information with one another as well as how parents shall share information with their child or children.
- Shared Parental Responsibility. An important aspect of each parenting plan is the confirmation that parents shall continue to co-parent just as they did when they were married and everyone acted as a family unit. This includes every aspect of child-rearing, including things such as decision-making. As a general rule, all decisions regarding children are made by the parents jointly, unless there are special circumstances which render one parent or the other from being able to safely make such decisions. Of course, some decisions are routine and are made by the parent with whom the children are staying. Notwithstanding, in emergency situations, and for matters such as education, medical care, religious upbringing, etc., parents need to make these decisions jointly.
Contact a Jacksonville Family Lawyer Today
At the Lasky Law Firm, we draft hundreds of parenting plans each year and we understand what constitutes an effective parenting plan. We also have experience in those special circumstances where a typical parenting plan is not appropriate. No matter your situation, we can advise you on your parenting plan. Contact a Jacksonville family lawyer today to schedule a consultation.