Divorce is often a difficult situation, even more so if the couple has young children. For that reason, Florida custody laws place a high emphasis on doing what’s best for the children involved. As your Florida divorce attorney will probably explain to you, Florida uses a parenting plan to set the custody agreement. This plan is required in all cases involving time-sharing with minor children, even if time-sharing is not in dispute.
Who Makes the Parenting Plan?
Ideally, both parents work together to come up with a parenting plan in the best interest of the children. However, if the two parties can’t come to an agreement, or the court feels the agreed-upon plan is not acceptable, then the court will create the plan. In many cases, both parents have more control over the plan and its contents when they agree on an acceptable plan together than when the court makes the plan. For that reason, you should make every effort to come to an agreement with your child’s other parent.
What Does the Parenting Plan Contain?
The parenting plan has to meet several minimum requirements along with the forms you will need to fill out once you have agreed on a plan.
Generally, the parenting plan must contain:
- A description of how the parties will share and be responsible for the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the child(ren)
- The time-sharing schedule arrangements that specify the time that the minor child(ren) will spend with each parent
- A designation of who will be responsible (or whether the responsibility would be shared) for any and all forms of health care, school-related matters, and extracurricular activities
- The methods and technologies that the parents will use to communicate with each other
The time-sharing schedule should address when each parent spends time with the child and for how long. Parents who live close to each other may consider switching off every week. Others may decide one parent keeps the children during the school week, and the other parent takes them every weekend, or every other weekend. Also, be sure to plan for holidays and vacation time, like Spring and Summer breaks from school. Some parents alternate holidays, while others may work out a schedule based on the relative importance of the holiday to each parent. The parenting scheduled may also be based on scheduling concerns. Say, for example, that you are an accountant, and your child’s spring break typically falls in April, at the height of tax season. You might be busy and unable to give your child your full attention during that week, so it might be better for the child to spend that time with the other parent. Meanwhile, it might be easier for you to take time off in the Summer so you can plan to spend several weeks of Summer vacation with your child.
What Should We Consider When Working on a Parenting Plan?
You and your child’s other parent should both make choices with the best interest of your child in mind, because that’s the criteria the court will use to decide if your plan should be approved. For example, would it be in your child’s best interest to travel from your home to his other parent’s house on a school night? Would it be better for your child to spend most of her summer vacation with the parent who travels more, or would she do better with more stability? The answers often depend on your child’s personality and needs.
A family court judge will consider many factors in determining whether your parenting plan is acceptable. In general, the judge will consider these things:
- Each parent’s ability to maintain a close emotional relationship with the child
- Each parent’s ability to ascertain the specific needs of the child and take the appropriate actions to address those needs
- The geographic location of each of the parents in relation to the child
- Each parent’s ability to provide a stable residence and home life for the child
- The emotional, mental, and physical health of each of the parents
- Any evidence of abuse, neglect, or abandonment of the child
- The educational and developmental needs of the child
- Any other facts or circumstances that impact the well- being of the child
Both parents should be able to explain all the aspects of their parenting plan, and why they made those decisions.
An experienced Florida divorce attorneys who can assist you in any matter relating to divorce, child support and custody, time-sharing, enforcement of divorce or family orders, and any other Family Law related matter.
Nico Apfelbaum, Esq. is the managing attorney of Apfelbaum Law, a Florida law firm serving Port St. Lucie, Stuart, the Treasure Coast and assisting clients with matters throughout Florida. Apfelbaum Law provides a wide variety of legal services, including, family law, divorces, business and contract transactions and litigation, immigration, wills and estate planning, probate law, and real estate law. The attorneys of Apfelbaum Law can assist you in any matter relating to divorce, child support and custody, time-sharing, enforcement of divorce or family orders, and any other Family Law related matter.