Understanding Florida “Parenting Plans”
You may have heard about joint custody and sole custody when it comes to determining the rights of divorcing parents and their children. In Florida, the terminology is different, but the objective is the same. Florida requires divorcing parties with children to submit a parenting plan before the divorce is approved. This parenting plan is essentially Florida’s form of a custody agreement.
What a Parenting Plan Does
A parenting plan sets forth the specific needs of each child and how those needs will be met by one, or both, parents. Before a court will grant a divorce, the parents must work together to develop a plan on how their kids will be raised and how each parent will be involved.
Parenting Plans Require Preparation
A thorough parenting plan must anticipate issues and come up with solutions for reasonably foreseeable situations. For example, the parenting plan must address which parent will receive custody and any time-sharing agreements. In addition, a parenting plan must address medical and healthcare matters, academic responsibilities, etc. Obviously a plan cannot predict the future, but that is not the point. The point is to have a set of guidelines that can make the process of sharing responsibility of a child easier. Below is what must be included in a parenting plan, according to Fla. Stat. section 61.13:
– A statement setting forth the division of the responsibilities and tasks associated with child-rearing that each parent will assume;
– A time-sharing schedule, including how much time each parent will spend time with the child and where;
– A statement regarding who will have the authority for making health care and school-related decisions, including the school district in which the child will receive education;
– A statement outlining extracurricular activities and which parent will make the decisions relating to each of them; and
– When and how each parent will communicate with the child, including whether the contact will be by phone, e-mail, text, and so forth.
When an Agreement Cannot Be Reached
If the divorcing parents cannot agree to an amicable parenting plan, a judge will be forced to step in and create their own parenting plan. It is strongly recommended to avoid letting such an important issue be decided by an unfamiliar third party like a judge. A judge may consider three generic plans that the Florida Supreme Court has approved to be used in specific circumstances. For example, a parenting plan template exists for when the two parents live within a relatively close proximity to each other. There is another parent plan where the safety of the child, or children, is an issue and there are specific guidelines in determining visitation and timesharing. Finally, there is a parenting plan template that includes unique factors that may exist when one parent is relocating or if the divorcing parents do not live close to one another. In this plan, the time-sharing commitments are more thoroughly addressed.
Why You Need to Hire a Quality Florida Divorce Attorney
You need to retain an attorney to help guide you through the potentially complicated process of establishing an acceptable parenting plan to the court. Not only can an experienced Florida divorce lawyer help ensure the plan is legally binding, but a lawyer can help serve as a mediator so you and your divorcing spouse do not have to try and put a plan together during an emotionally difficult time where you may not be on the same page emotionally or psychologically. If you need assistance crafting a parenting plan, reach out to Vanessa L. Prieto today to talk about your situation. Our office serves clients in Fort Lauderdale, we are prepared to offer you legal guidance today.