What is a Parenting Plan in Florida Divorce

What is a Parenting Plan?

In every divorce or paternity case that involves custody of children, a Parenting Plan must be established. A Parenting Plan is a document, usually between 8-15 pages long, that acts as a “contract” that the parties must follow regarding all child-related matters. A Parenting Plan can either be agreed upon by the parties and written up after negotiations or at mediation, or it will be ordered by the Judge after hearing all of the evidence at a trial in your case. Regardless of how a Parenting Plan is derived, the terms and conditions within the Parenting Plan must be in the best interests of the children. Florida law lists several matters that must be included in a Parenting Plan. Florida Statute §61.13(2)(b) provides that a Parenting Plan that is approved by the Court (or established after trial) must, at a minimum, include 1) a description in adequate detail how the parents will share and be responsible for the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of a child; 2) it must include a time-sharing schedule that specifies the time a child will spend with each parent; 3) it must designate which parent (or both) will be responsible for healthcare, school-related matters, and other activities; and 4) it must describe in adequate detail the methods and technologies that a parent will use to communicate with the child. In addition to what is required by the law, a Parenting Plan can include terms pertaining to methods and technologies the parents will use to communicate with each other; which parent’s address will be used to designate the child’s school each year; where the parents will exchange the child for timesharing; and other child-related details specifically unique to each family. It is important when you have custody-related matters to think about these things during the pendency of your case. Ask your attorney for a form Parenting Plan to review to prompt you to think about what sorts of things you must, and may, be included in your parenting Plan. A Parenting Plan, once agreed upon by the parents or established by the Court, can be modified if the circumstances of the parties have changed substantially that were not foreseeable at the time of the original Parenting Plan being entered. However, this is not automatic. A parent must apply to the Court, usually by filing a Supplemental Petition for Modification, to change the terms and conditions in their Parenting Plan. This can be difficult, and there is a high burden on the parent that wants to modify to bring forward evidence that the circumstances have substantially changed and that it’s in the children’s best interests to change provisions in the Parenting Plan. Because every family is unique, and because one cookie-cutter form may not work for everyone, it is important that you have a competent and experienced family law attorney to help you through the process of establishing a Parenting Plan. Oftentimes we see issues that come up after the Final Judgment was entered that was not covered in an original Parenting Plan that may be somewhat difficult for you to get a Judge to decide after the fact. While we cannot anticipate every event or issue both parents will experience while raising their children, the more experienced your attorney is with Parenting Plans and the more detail you include in your Parenting Plan, the better. Contact an attorney at Vette Law to discuss your options.