A Parenting Plan is a written agreement between both parents about how a child should be raised. The purpose of the Parenting Plan is to establish some basic guidelines for how the child will interact with each of their parents, so as to avoid confusing or contradictory experiences and parenting styles. The Plan has two parts:
Parental Responsibility: This is the way decisions are made for the child, who makes them, and who carries them out. Usually, you and your spouse will have Shared Parental Responsibility, meaning that you must make important decisions together; neither parent can simply tell the other what to do.
Time-Sharing: As the name suggests, time-sharing is a term for how much time your child will spend with each parent, what activities they might engage in, and on what days. For example, the holidays spent with each parent are usually included in the Parenting Plan. More commonly, since the State of Florida places a lot of emphasis on overnight stays (and since under the law there is no “primary” parent), the number of nights a child will spend at each house is always included in the Parenting Plan.
It is expected that you and your spouse will be able to work out the Parenting Plan yourself, but, if this is impossible, the Court may step in, and the Judge will include a Parenting Plan in his or her Final Judgment. To make this judgment, the Judge looks at different factors concerning your situation. Below are the ones normally considered the most important:
Florida Statute 61.13 (3)
For purposes of parental responsibility and timesharing, the best interests of the child shall include an evaluation of all factors affecting the welfare and interests of the child, including, but not limited to:
1. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
2. The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
3. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.
4. The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
5. The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan.
6. The moral fitness of the parents.
7. The mental and physical health of the parents.
8. The home, school, and community record of the child.
9. The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
10. The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.
11. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
12. The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.
13. Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought.
14. Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
15. The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties.
16. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
17. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child that is free from substance abuse.
18. The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.
19. The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.
20. Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.
Please call 813.350.7890 to discuss the factors and how they apply to your specific situation. We look forward to hearing from you.