If you have kids when you get divorced, you and your ex-spouse must devise a parenting plan to determine the responsibilities and time-sharing schedules you’ll both adhere to. Generally, the Florida statutes no longer use the terms “custody” and “visitation,” preferring instead to address “parental responsibilities” and “parental time sharing.” Understanding the intricacies of parental responsibilities in Florida can be difficult, so read on to discover key steps in creating a parenting plan.
What Is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is a detailed document outlining the rights and responsibilities of both parents in a divorcing partnership. The Florida Courts have four standardized parenting plans that you may draw from in creating yours, including:
- A basic parenting plan where the parents live within relatively close proximity to each other
- A safety-focused parenting plan for situations where the safety of the child is more relevant than normal
- A long-distance parenting plan with contingencies for situations where one parent is relocating in the near future or both parents live far from each other
- A highly-structured parenting plan for instances where the child in question requires additional structure and timesharing consistency for their safety and development
However, you and your ex-spouse can also create a new parenting plan with its own conditions. Every court-approved Florida parenting plan must include:
- A comprehensive statement that explains how each parent will divide parental responsibilities and tasks associated with child-rearing
- Arrangements for the timesharing schedule (i.e., how much time each parent will spend with the child and where they will spend that time)
- A statement indicating the parents have shared parental responsibilities or that identifies which parent has ultimate responsibility for important decisions such as health care and education
- An explanation of how each parent will communicate with each other and the child, such as telephone, Zoom, Facetime, text, email, etc.
You and your ex-spouse must present your parenting plan to the court before the issues of parental responsibilities and parental time sharing are settled.
How to Create a Divorce Parenting Plan in Florida
Creating a divorce parenting plan in Florida isn’t overly technical or complex. You should work with a knowledgeable Tampa divorce attorney when drafting a parenting plan with your ex-spouse and their legal team. This will ensure neither of you misses any critical information.
Best Interest of the Child
First and foremost, a parenting plan must always consider the best interest of the child over all other considerations. It is the primary factor in the court’s consideration of the parties’ parental responsibilities and parental timesharing.
For instance, if a parent’s employment requires hiring a babysitter during their timesharing, it may be better to offer that time to the other parent on a “right of first refusal” basis. If the other parent can watch the child, that is likely to be more in the child’s best interests than hiring a professional child care provider.
Decide on a “Normal” Schedule
Next, you and your ex-spouse must settle on the details for your normal daily or weekly schedule. The normal schedule is the typical parental time-sharing arrangement your child will experience.
For instance, you and your ex-spouse may decide that you will swap timesharing once every other weekend for two days. Most courts favor parenting plans that prioritize stability and consistency for the kids.
Figure Out Timesharing During Special Circumstances
You’ll also need to draft a section of the parenting plan explaining timesharing for special dates, like holidays, birthdays, etc.
Generally, both parents want to spend time with their kids on holidays. You and your ex-spouse should work with your Tampa divorce lawyers to determine who gets to see the kids on which holiday, whether special holiday timesharing is determined on an alternating schedule, and so on.
Determine Exchange Plans
Remember to include details about how you will exchange the kids for timesharing in your parenting plan. For example, will you and your spouse meet at a neutral location for the handoff? Or will the parent whose timesharing is ending deliver the child to the other parent’s home? Any arrangement can work provided it is safe, but it must be detailed in the parenting plan.
Propose Your Parenting Plan
Once you work out all the details, propose your parenting plan to the court at your next court date. The judge will review the parenting plan and, if approved, will put it into effect immediately.
Negotiate With Your Ex and Their Attorney
What if your ex-spouse and their legal team disagree with the proposal in some way? Or what if the court rejects the parenting plan? In these instances, you’ll need to continue negotiating with your ex-spouse and their attorneys.
Be prepared to negotiate and speak about what’s best for your kids. With the right Tampa divorce lawyers, you can represent your interests and the interests of your children at the same time.
Read more in our blog: Fathers’ Parental (Custody) Rights: How to Prepare & Negotiate in Tampa, Florida
If There Is No Parenting Plan, Who Has the Child?
It’s in your best interest to cooperate with your ex-spouse and devise a parenting plan together, even if the two of you don’t get along. If the parents in a Florida divorce cannot form a consensus on the details of a parenting plan, the court will step in and take control of the process.
At that stage, you won’t have any control over who visits your child, what your time-sharing rights are, and more. If you wish to have any say over parental responsibilities and parental, you and your ex-spouse must be willing to negotiate and bargain.
You can bring this up in the parenting plan negotiations if your spouse is playing hardball. Alternatively, have your Florida divorce lawyer speak to them on your behalf and stress this fact: presumably, neither of you wants the court to make decisions arbitrarily or based on stereotypes.
Contact Hunter Law Today
At the end of the day, you and your ex-spouse should set up your Florida parenting plan so it reflects what’s best for your kids. If you’re getting divorced, a parent planning law firm can help, even if you and your spouse are on good terms.
The right Tampa divorce attorneys can provide insight and guidance, plus ensure that you and your spouse cover all your bases and have all major contingencies accounted for in your parenting plan in Florida. For immediate assistance and a free consultation, contact Hunter Law today.