When parents divorce or separate, they are required to come up with a parenting plan for how they will both share time with the child. These plans spell out terms of custody, visitation, and a host of other matters. Having an attorney negotiate your parenting plan, and take the matter to court if necessary, can help protect your right to parent and spend time with your child.
Orlando Family Team represents parents in Florida child custody cases by working to resolve disagreements over parenting plans and going before the judge if needed. We can get started on your matter today.
What Is A Parenting Plan?
Parents who decide not to live together need to determine how they will share time and responsibility for their children. That means deciding how much time the child will spend with both parents and how the parents will exercise decision-making authority. For these and related purposes, Florida courts require what is known as a parenting plan in child custody cases.
A judge must review and approve a parenting plan, even if the parents agree to its terms. That’s because the primary goal of family court is to protect the best interests of the child rather than the desires of the parents. The judge will expect your parenting plan to (among other things):
- Include sufficient detail about how the parents will share and be responsible for daily tasks concerning the upbringing of the child
- Contain a time-sharing schedule that addresses in detail the time the child will spend with both parents
- Designate which parent will be responsible for healthcare (including mental health treatment), educational matters (including which parent’s address will be used for school registration), and extracurricular activities
- Describe the methods and technologies the parents will use to communicate with the child
Time-Sharing Between The Parents
Perhaps the most significant matter that must be addressed, and one which often leads to heated disputes, is how much time the child will share with both parents. That means where the child will spend overnights, weekends, holidays, birthdays, vacations, and other events. Not only is this question largely driven by emotion, but there are practical considerations that come into play. A time-sharing schedule has to address such factors as:
- The parents’ work schedules and other obligations
- The distance between the parents
- Where and what time the child can be exchanged between the parents
- The child’s school and other activities
- The age of the child
For that reason, time-sharing terms tend to be highly detailed. A good parenting plan is comprehensive and avoids ambiguity which could lead to disagreements and disputes between the parents. Parents are encouraged to negotiate and compromise so they can devise a parenting plan that not only allows time-sharing but is in the child’s best interests.
This is another major issue that should be covered by the parenting plan. Parents have to share decision-making authority over important matters such as healthcare, education, extracurricular activities, religious upbringing, and much more. These are not mundane decisions like what to have for dinner, but more consequential ones that the parents would decide together had they not separated.
Courts prefer that parents share this authority. But of course, this can lead to disagreements and complications. The best parenting plans, therefore, contain mechanisms for resolving future disputes, like requiring the parties to submit the issue to mediation. This helps anticipate disagreements that might arise down the road and hopefully keep the matter out of court.
There are cases in which it would not be in the child’s best interests for parents to share decision-making authority. For example, it could be detrimental to the child for parents to share this responsibility where one parent has been convicted of domestic violence. In a case like this, it may be better for only one parent to be granted decision-making authority.
How Do Parents Come Up With A Parenting Plan?
Ideally, the parents will discuss how best to share time and responsibility for the child and come up with a parenting plan on their own. If the parents are having trouble talking about the matter, they may need to see a mediator who can help them work through their disagreements. The mediator will facilitate discussions and assist the parents in compromising on an acceptable parenting plan.
Remember, however, that the judge still has to review and approve the parenting plan, no matter whether the parents agreed to it. Having an attorney assist with negotiations, or represent you in mediation, will help to not only protect your rights as a parent but to craft a plan the court will approve.
Since parents know themselves and their children best, it is strongly advised that they work together to resolve their differences and settle on a mutually agreeable parenting plan. However, this is not always possible. If the parents simply can’t agree, then a judge will need to hear the matter and decide on the best terms for a parenting plan. Being represented by legal counsel is the best way to present your evidence and arguments to the court as to why your vision of the parenting plan is the right one.
Contact Our Orlando Parenting Plan Attorney
Whether you need help negotiating and drafting a parenting plan, representing you in mediation, or advocating for you in court, Orlando Family Team is here for you. We handle all aspects of Florida parenting plans by standing up for parents and the best interests of their children. We’re ready to get started on your case today. Contact our office today to discuss your parenting plan.