No part of a divorce is pleasant, but when you have children, making decisions about how their lives will be affected is especially difficult. The Parenting Plan is required by the State of Florida. The primary intent of the Parenting Plan is always done in what is the best interest of the children. This document is part of the Dissolution of Marriage process and enables the divorcing couple to make decisions about the children ahead of time, saving confusion and heartache down the road.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A Parenting Plan is required by the Circuit Court in the event of a divorce when children are involved. It is a written document that outlines the basic responsibilities in raising a child (children). Each plan varies because each circumstance is different; however, it will focus on certain arrangements, such as:
- Parental Responsibility and Decision Making
- Schedules, Time Sharing and Holidays
- Information Sharing
- Relocation & Communication
The court’s top priority is the well-being of the children, and the Parenting Plan will cater to the children’s best interests and needs. Having a Parenting Plan in place reduces conflict between parents because it addresses most issues that will occur before they happen. This eliminates the need to negotiate a decision between the parents each time a new issue arises.
Parental Responsibility and Decision Making
Raising children encompasses a series of decisions that must be made from breakfast to bedtime. Parents need to agree on the extent of involvement and control each will have on the decisions that affect their children. The Parenting Plan addresses many issues that arise in a child’s life. These decisions range from simple day to day decisions to more complex issues, such as where the children will attend school, what extra-curricular activities they will participate in and what their child care arrangements will be.
It’s typical to include the ability for each parent to make unilateral decisions in the event of an emergency.
Schedules, Time Sharing and Holidays
Time sharing or custody is among the most sensitive areas of divorce. The historic pattern of the mother maintaining the majority of custody with the father having custody every other weekend is giving way to the more modern trend of custody being shared on a more equitable schedule. The parents must decide on, and inform the court of, a weekly or monthly schedule of when the children will be in the care of which parent, as well as holiday schedules.
This schedule is crucial because it affects not only the children’s home(s), but also the financial responsibility each parent will bear in the costs of raising children.
Schedules can vary from one week with the mother and one week with the father, to more frequent exchanges throughout the week. The times and locations for transferring the children from one parent to another are part of the plan.
Parents have a right to know what’s happening with their children. If an accident, illness or other event pertaining to the child’s welfare should occur, parents can agree on a means of and timeline for informing the other parent. Specific guidelines are put in place to ensure that each parent knows about reports from doctors, schools, and other important events in the child’s life.
Relocation & Communication
Some divorcing couples feel it is necessary to agree up front whether the other parent will be allowed to move away from the current area and whether or not they will be able to move the children with them. If this is the case, this can be built into the Parenting Plan. Also, guidelines should be established for the children to communicate with the parent they are not with at the time. This sets productive boundaries and sets the children’s expectations about when they will and will not be in communication with the other parent. For example, a nighttime “cutoff” is common so late night phone calls and text messages do not interrupt the children’s sleep.
All in all, Florida’s Parenting Plan requirements encourage parents going through a divorce to carefully consider and make decisions on the areas affecting their children. This prevents the need to revisit the decision-making table each time a new issue occurs. To create a Parenting Plan for your divorce, contact your attorney today.
For additional help, contact Attorney Christopher Lombardo at 239-649-6555 or visit www.wpl-legal.com for more information.