Effective Parenting Plans
Maria C. Gonzalez, Esq.
Florida has a long standing public policy “that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing. There is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child or for or against any specific time-sharing schedule when creating or modifying the parenting plan of the child.” Florida Statute, §61.13(2)(c)(1). In 2008, the Florida Legislature adopted the concept of parenting plans. The Florida Supreme Court approved a variety of parenting plan templates (Family Law form 12.995), including parenting plans which are safety focused, or address the need for supervised timesharing, relocation, or long-distance plans. If a couple has a minor child and timesharing is in dispute, then the family will need to create a parenting plan. If they cannot agree on a parenting plan, then the court will create one for that family. If there is a history of any domestic violence in the family, then a safety focused parenting plan must be considered.
The primary consideration in creating a parenting plan is the best interest of the child. Parenting plans should be specifically tailored for each family after taking into consideration twenty-one statutory factors under Florida Statute, §61.13(3) to determine what is in the best interest of the child. Creation of an effective parenting plan is necessary in order to achieve reduced conflict between the parents, provide a stable and predictable timesharing schedule and co-parenting decision making. It follows that if the parents can rely upon the terms of their parenting plan, then neither party will have the need to petition the court to enforce or compel compliance of the other party’s obligations under the plan.
A parenting plan can either be highly structured or more basic depending upon the specific needs of the family. For example, parents engaged in high conflict litigation, generally also exhibit poor communication and an inability to effectively co-parent. An effective parenting plan in such high conflict cases should include as much detail as possible on how the parents will share daily tasks associated with raising their children.
The main components of a parenting plan include parental responsibility or decision making, extracurricular activities, information sharing (such as school and medical records), weekend, weekday and holiday timesharing, exchange location, transportation costs, foreign and out of state travel, retention of the child’s passport, school boundary registration, electronic communication between the parents and between each parent and the child, selection of child care providers, and right of first refusal. The timesharing schedule allocates time between each parent after taking into account the children’s ages and developmental and psychological needs. At times, it may be helpful to consider a stipulation for the parents to meet with a parenting coordinator to assist them in creating of a parenting plan prior to attending mediation. Creating an effective parenting plan requires meeting with your client and discussing the many different options, benefits, pros and cons of each specific aspect of the parenting plan.