What Divorcing Parents Should Know About Parenting Plans in Florida

When parents divorce in Florida, they are required by law to create a parenting plan. A parenting plan is a document that sets forth each parent’s rights and responsibilities with regard to their children’s care, supervision and upbringing.

Although these issues are often referred to in everyday conversation as child custody and visitation, this terminology is no longer in use by the Florida court system. Instead, Florida uses the term “time-sharing” to describe the assignment of parental rights and responsibilities after divorce. This change in terminology reflects the understanding that it is typically in a child’s best interest to have both parents involved in his or her life on an ongoing basis, and underscores the state’s policy of supporting parents in continuing to share parental responsibilities after divorce.

Shared vs. Sole Parental Responsibility

When Florida parents divorce, the courts have a preference for shared parental responsibility. This means that both parents have a right to be involved in making important decisions affecting the child’s care, upbringing and wellbeing, including matters of education, religious instruction, discipline and medical care. When parents with shared parental responsibility are not able to reach an agreement on major issues such as these, they must go to court and ask a judge to determine which parent should be responsible for making final decisions in that area of the child’s life.

Although shared parental responsibility is preferred in Florida, under certain circumstances the courts will grant sole parental responsibility to one parent. This is typically limited to situations in which the other parent has been shown to be neglectful, abusive, irresponsible or otherwise a threat to the child’s wellbeing.

How are parenting plans created in Florida? In many cases, divorcing parents in Florida are able to negotiate the terms of their own parenting plans outside of court, often with help from their divorce lawyers. However, when attempts to reach an out-of-court agreement are not successful, a family law judge will create a plan based on what he or she believes to be in the child’s best interest.

A typical Florida parenting plan will address several different issues, including:

  • Parental responsibility.
    • How will important decisions be made about the child’s care and upbringing?
    • How will these issues be resolved when the parents disagree?
    • Time sharing schedules. How much time will the child spend with each parent, and when?
    • How will holidays and vacations be dealt with?
    • How will the parents share responsibility for transporting the child from one home to the other?
  • Communication.
    • How will the parents communicate with each other?
    • How will they communicate with the child?
    • What technologies may be used for visitation?

When creating a parenting plan in Florida, it is also a good idea to include details about what the procedure will be for modifying the schedule in case unexpected circumstances arise.

Talk to a lawyer to learn more to discuss these and other important topics that should be considered when creating a parenting plan in Florida, get in touch with an experienced marital and family lawyer who can help you review your options and create a parenting plan that is customized to meet the needs of you and your family.