In Florida, the document that governs the parents’ rights and responsibilities for the minor child is called a parenting plan. A parenting plan is a comprehensive document that deals not only with the day-to-day issues regarding the child but also a standard timesharing schedule, as well as a holiday timesharing schedule. Parenting plans differ in the level of specificity they provide. Some parties prefer a very detailed, comprehensive plan in which they attempt to address as many scenarios as they can think of that may arise in the future, even if they don’t exist at present. Others opt for a much more general plan. At a minimum, a parenting plan must include the following:
(1) A description of the parents’ responsibilities related to the daily tasks associated with bringing up the child.
(2) A specific timesharing schedule.
(3) Responsibility for any and all forms of healthcare. If shared parental responsibility is agreed to or ordered, which occurs in the substantial majority of cases, then the parenting plan must include a provision that allows either parent to consent to mental health treatment for their child.
(4) The address that will be used for determination of school boundary and registration and other activities.
(5) The methods and technologies that the parents will use to communicate with the child.
If the parties are unable to agree upon a plan, then the court will design it, and the parties will be required to abide by it unless they mutually agree otherwise. Each family has its own special set of circumstances and needs, and it is much more efficient and effective if the parties can agree on a parenting plan, as opposed to having an order forced upon them.
The judge will not know the specific needs of your child and your family, and as such, will not be able to provide the level of detail that most parents want in their plan. Because of that, often times, when parenting plans have not been agreed to but are instead imposed by the court, litigation continues after the final judgment in the form of post-judgment motions for contempt and enforcement, as well as in supplemental proceedings to modify the parenting plan.
There must be sufficient detail in the parenting plan to address the actual timesharing schedule. Years ago, prior to parenting plans, when people were crafting custody agreements, you would quite often see language such as “mother shall have primary residential responsibility of the child, and father will have open and reasonable visitation.” This language would not be appropriate or acceptable in a parenting plan. The language is outdated and no longer reflects the public policy of this state, which is that each parent is entitled to have frequent and continuing contact with the minor child, and there is no presumption for or against either parent with regard to a specific timesharing schedule. Additionally, a much more detailed timesharing plan and allocation of parental responsibilities is now required.
If the parties are able to reach an agreement as to the parenting plan, the court still review it and determine that it is in the best interest of the child. Typically, if the parties have agreed upon the plan, and there is nothing particularly outrageous or obviously concerning about it, the court will approve it. Who better to craft a plan with the best interest of the child as the focus than the parents? That being said, the court must review that plan and make that determination. In doing so, the court will focus on the best interest of the child and will consider at least 20 factors that are identified in Florida Statute 61.13(3).
Please call me to schedule a consult to discuss your rights, responsibilities, and the options regarding your parenting plan.