Orlando Family Law Attorneys for Parenting Plans
In 2008, Florida Statutes 61.13 created the requirement of “Parenting Plans” in matters involving children. The “Parenting Plan” is a required separate document in matters involving children that sets out in great detail the parties’ timesharing with the minor child, including pick-up and drop off times, locations, as well as detailed holiday timesharing. The parenting plan also touches on aspects of communication between the parties and with the children, decision-making regarding the child, and how uncovered medical expenses are to be covered. The detailed plan was created to force parents to make decisions regarding issues of their children without the necessity of Court intervention at a later date. However, if the parties cannot reach an agreed-to resolution on aspects of the parenting plan, the Family Law Court will decide your parenting plan for you.
In dissolution of marriage cases involving minor children, the most important matter for the court is parenting. The Court has a duty to protect the well being and best interests of the minor children above all else. There has been an obvious evolution of thinking regarding the treatment of timesharing with minor children over the years. Many clients will come in using terms which we simply do not use in the State of Florida for these matters anymore including “full custody”, “custody”, “visitation” and “primary parent.”
It was not too long ago that timesharing between parents was dealt with in a very cursory nature. Most final judgments of dissolution or mediated settlement agreements would simply make one parent, usually the mother, the primary residential parent and allow the other parent “free and liberal timesharing.” Other times it was a bit more detailed, creating an actual timesharing schedule such as the very common, at least for then, “every other weekend and Wednesday night” schedule.
However, these vague arrangements would often result in additional litigation where parties sought clarification or modification.
In 2008, Florida Statutes 61.13 created the requirement of “Parenting Plans.” The “Parenting Plan” is a required separate document that lays out in great detail the parties’ timesharing with the minor child as well as rights and responsibilities regarding the child. The statute also did away with the term “primary residential parent.”
Almost immediately after the statute went into effect, many judges began awarding equal (50/50) timesharing where, just prior to the statutory amendment, equal was essentially an anomaly. For two years many family law judges mistakenly believed that Florida Statutes 61.13, and the removal of the term “primary residential parent” had created a presumption that timesharing should be equal unless there was a good reason to do otherwise.
It was not until 2010 that the appellate courts corrected this behavior, stating that there was no presumption for any particular type of timesharing and that all cases should be dealt with on a case by case manner with the focus being the best interests of the child.
However, it is fairly clear that it is more likely now, than it was prior to 2008, that a family law judge will order equal timesharing if the parties’ respective work schedules and proximity to one another can facilitate such timesharing in the bet interests of the child. When determining what timesharing should be ordered, the trial court will look at the following factors:
- 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.
- The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
- 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.
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
- 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. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child.
- The moral fitness of the parents.
- The mental and physical health of the parents.
- The home, school, and community record of the child.
- The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. If the court accepts evidence of prior or pending actions regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, the court must specifically acknowledge in writing that such evidence was considered when evaluating the best interests of the child.
- 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.
- 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.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
- 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.
- The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.
- Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.