In all divorces which involve children and time-sharing with those minor child(ren)—even when there are no current disputes regarding time-sharing—a Parenting Plan is required by the state of Florida. Florida family law form 12.995(a) Parenting Plan must be used in all cases except when supervised time-sharing will be implemented, in which case Florida family law form 12.995(b) Supervised/Safety-Focused Parenting Plan will be used. In cases where one parent is relocating or the parenting plan must address parents who live a considerable distance from one another, Florida family law form 12.995(c) Relocation/Long-Distance Parenting Plan will be used.
The Parenting Plans are extremely comprehensive; at the very least, an acceptable Florida Parenting Plan must describe in detail how the parties will share and be responsible for the child(ren), the time-sharing arrangements which offer specific times the child(ren) will spend with each parent, a designation of which parent will be responsible for health care and school forms and the methods the parents will use to communicate with one another regarding issues related to the child(ren). Florida law will assess a Parenting Plan based on the best interests of the child(ren).
The courts consider an exhaustive list of issues relating to the child(ren) when making the determination of best interests. These issues include:
• Any evidence of prior child abuse, abandonment, neglect or sexual or domestic violence will be taken into account; if the court uses this evidence in their determination of a parenting plan, it must specifically acknowledge this in writing.
• Should either parent knowingly provide untrue information regarding prior acts of child abuse, abandonment, neglect or sexual or domestic violence, this will be taken into account in the determination of a parenting plan.
• The court will consider the specific parenting tasks performed by each parent on a regular basis prior to the divorce as well as while the divorce is ongoing.
• The court will consider whether the parents are capable of communicating with one another and keep one another apprised of all issues and activities related to the child(ren).
• The court will consider the ability of both parents to provide a consistent routine for the child(ren), including daily schedules for homework, meals, bedtime and a consistent, appropriate form of discipline.
• The court will consider the extent to which each parent has been and will continue to be, involved in the child(ren)’s daily lives, including friends, activities, teachers, medical care providers and the child(ren)’s favorite things.
• If the child or children are of sufficient age and maturity, the court may consider the child’s wishes regarding which parent he or she will spend the majority of their time with.
• The court will consider the records (home, school and community) of the child(ren).
• The mental and physical health of each parent will be considered by the court, as well as the moral fitness of each.
• The parenting plan must be geographically feasible, with special attention given to school age children if extensive travel is involved in the parenting plan.
• The court will consider how long the child(ren) have lived in a stable, secure environment up to this point, and how desirable it is to maintain that same environment post-divorce.
• The court will consider each parent’s ability to put their own needs and desires aside in favor of the needs and desires of the child(ren).
• The court will determine how parental responsibilities will be divided after the divorce, including the extent to which third parties will be implemented in the child(ren)’s daily routine.
• The ability of each parent to be fully involved in school and after-school activities will be taken into account by the court.
• The ability of each parent to provide a substance-free environment for the child(ren) will be assessed by the court.
• The ability of each parent to refrain from talking negatively about the other party after the divorce will be assessed by the court.
• The developmental needs of the children as well as each parent’s ability to meet those needs will be assessed by the court.
• The ability of each parent to encourage a close, ongoing relationship with the other parent will be determined by the court.
When the Parenting Plan is submitted, you will check whether both parties are in agreement with the proposed Parenting Plan, whether the Plan is being submitted on behalf of one parent or whether the Parenting Plan is to be established by the court. It will also be noted whether the Parenting Plan is temporary, a modification, or a final Parenting Plan. You will check whether the Parenting Plan implements shared parental responsibility, shared parental responsibility with decision-making authority, or sole parental responsibility. Information sharing is addressed in the Parenting Plan; unless otherwise stated, each parent will have access to medical and school records as well as other information pertaining to the child(ren).
Under the scheduling heading, it will be noted how the school calendar will be addressed by the parents, which parent will have the children during an academic break, and how scheduling changes will be handled. Weekday and weekend schedules will be clearly spelled out, and it will be determined which holidays will be spent with which parent, including the child(ren)’s birthdays and Mother’s and Father’s Day. Based on the time-sharing schedule, the number of overnights will be estimated for father and mother. The parents will address how the child(ren) will be transported and exchanged from one parent to another and a designation of school for the child(ren) will be made.
Parents will determine whether communication regarding the children between them will be in person or via telephone, mail, text or e-mail, as well as the method of communication between the children and the parent who is not present at the time of the communication. If communication between parent and child(ren) is to be via cell phone or text, a determination of how the costs of that communication will be shared must be made. A method of resolving disputes or conflict must be stated, as well as how child care will be handled and how changes or modifications to the parenting plan will occur.
As you can see, the Parenting Plan is quite extensive; while you can prepare it on your own, it is advisable to have a qualified Florida family law attorney prepare and file the necessary forms associated with your divorce and custody. Preparing your own divorce/custody papers can take a considerable amount of time and effort, plus you have to determine which forms your case requires as well as the time constraints associated with the filing of those forms. The Law Place attorneys have been helping people going through difficult, complex divorces and custody issues for over two decades. We believe we can provide you with experience, knowledge of Florida family law, compassion and dedication to your case and that these qualities can make a huge difference in the outcome of your divorce, custody and Parenting Plan. The attorneys at The Law Place will ensure your rights are fully protected every step of the way, and will always have your best interests at heart.