Navigating the world of custody and visitation after a divorce or separation can be difficult for many parents. The state of Florida requires parents to submit a document called a Parenting Plan as part of their divorce proceedings, which will ultimately govern how each party will cooperate to raise their shared children. Essentially, this document will serve as a roadmap which sets expectations and anticipates as many issues as possible so that conflict can be avoided.
In this blog, we will be taking an in-depth look at the crucial factors that you need to know if you are in the process of creating a Parenting Plan or will soon need to do so.
Components Of A Parenting Plan
Each parenting plan should be unique to the current circumstances of your children, such as their age, medical conditions, and other factors. While you have the option of including more sections, at the minimum, your parenting plan should include:
- Each parent’s daily schedule, as well as the childrens’ schedules
- How the children’s time will be divided
- Whether outside help will be utilized (such as a family member or professional caregiver)
- Whether one parent will pay child support and in what amount
- Each parent’s transportation situation
- How parents will communicate with each other
- How holidays or other important events will be divided
- What kind of discipline to use on the children
- Any physical or mental disabilities the children face
- The academic performance of the children
- Any extracurriculars the children participate in, and when
- When and where each parent plans to vacation with the children
- Where each parent will live with the child
- What religious practices the children will be exposed to or participate in
Creating A Customized Parenting Plan
The more customized your Parenting Plan is to your family’s unique dynamics and lifestyle, the more effective it will be at meeting the individual needs of your children. In Florida, there are four types of Parenting Plans to choose from: a basic plan, a long-distance plan, a highly-structured plan, and a safety-focused plan.
For parents who reside or plan to reside more than fifty miles apart, the long-distance plan is optimum.
The safety-focused plan is ideal for those in a situation where the other parent has:
- Acted as though violent behavior against you or your children is acceptable
- Damaged or destroyed property during an argument
- Pushed, slapped, kicked, punched or hit you or your children
- Regularly abused and currently abuses alcohol or drugs
- Or engaged in other abusive or threatening behavior.
The highly-structured plan is for former couples who:
- Have a high level of conflict
- Do not communicate except through email, text message, or a third-party (such as an attorney)
- Have doubts about each other’s parental abilities
- Do not trust each other’s parental judgment or decision making abilities
- Only exchange the children in a public setting or with a third-party present
- Or have other related issues.
In the absence of any of these conditions, the basic plan is the best option. As the children grow and time passes, there may be a need to revise the plan or choose a different path. It is best to review the plan when a child starts school, either parent remarries, a child’s schedule changes, or there are any other major changes (such as a job loss, new job, relocation, etc.).
Agreeing On A Parenting Plan
The parenting plan will be created and agreed on as part of your divorce proceedings through mediation, collaboration, or litigation. In mediation, an experienced third-party mediator helps to facilitate the discussion and composition of the plan. The mediator may be an attorney, but they do not act as legal representation during the meeting; they may not impose a settlement or offer legal advice. Their role is to remain unbiased and impartial while keeping the conversation focused on seeking solutions. In collaborative divorce, spouses still work together to reach an agreement, but are each represented by their own attorneys.
In the event that an agreement cannot be reached regarding the parenting plan, it must be litigated in court. Each spouse’s attorney presents their arguments and the judge rules based on the best interests of the children. The ruling then becomes a legally binding order which outlines the specifics of the parenting plan and ensures that the children’s welfare remains the top priority in the eyes of the law.
Importance Of Having A Parenting Plan
There are 3 major benefits to having a comprehensive parenting plan:
1. Stability and structure for children – the presence of a well-defined plan fosters a sense of security and stability in the kids’ lives which contributes to their overall well-being. They will have a clear understanding of where they will be and when, which is particularly beneficial for younger children.
2. Minimized conflict between parents – when things like dates, times, places, and other factors affecting the children are hashed out in advance, much of the potential disagreements divorced parents face are eliminated. Obviously, there is no possible way to ensure that disagreements never arise, but a parenting plan can go a long way in anticipating where conflict may be created.
3. Higher chance of successful co-parenting – when the children are content, conflict between the parents is minimized, communication is clear, and there is an overall focus on the best interests of the children, the pathway to successful co-parenting is made much easier to navigate.
Need A Hand To Guide You Through Creating A Successful Parenting Plan? Trust The Supportive Attorneys At Men’s Divorce Law Firm
If you’re feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of having to create your parenting plan alone, or simply want to make sure your plan is as effective as possible, allow our team to lend a helping hand. We will sit down with you and get to know you and your children, hear your story, and answer any questions you may have. As a firm dedicated to protecting the rights of fathers, you can rely on our extensive experience and profound knowledge of Florida law to put you in the best position for success. Call today to schedule an initial consultation and learn more!