After a divorce, child sharing and support continue until the child’s 18th birthday. However, child sharing and support may extend beyond the child’s 18th birthday by agreement of both parents. Additionally, a court may extend child sharing and support if the child is still in high school and will graduate before turning 19 years old, or has a mental or physical incapacity.
The parents may establish a plan for parental responsibility through a Marital Settlement Agreement or through a court-ordered plan. Florida law tries to promote frequent and continuing contact of the child with both parents. There is no presumption for or against either parent.
The parental plan describes what responsibilities each parent has regarding issues such as education and health care of the child. A court may consider each parent’s expressed interests regarding specific areas of the child’s upbringing.
Parental responsibility will be shared by both parents unless the court finds that sharing parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child. A court may give sole parental responsibility to one parent if the court determines it to be in the best interests of the child.
The parenting plan must also have arrangements for time sharing of the child. Time sharing can be split evenly between the parents or be unequal. Parents may alternate time sharing by certain days and weekends or on a week on/week off basis.
Important considerations for time sharing include the distance between the parents following their separation. Both parents must coordinate transportation for the exchanges of the child between parents. In fact, the Marital Settlement Agreement or court order must establish the location and time for exchanges of the child.
Other time sharing issues include school breaks (winter break, spring break, summer break) as well as holidays (including Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and the child’s birthday). School breaks and holidays can be shared evenly, given more to one parent if the other parent has more time sharing during the school year, or alternated with each parent having the child every other year.
Time sharing can also affect the amount of child support paid by the parents. Child support is a monthly financial obligation. Child support payments may be reduced when a parent has the child for at least 20% of nights during the year. This equals 73 nights per year. Every night beyond 73 nights provides for additional reduction in child support payments.
Modifying A Parenting Plan
Once a parenting plan is in place, it may not be modified unless a court finds that there is a substantial, material, and unanticipated change in the circumstances from when the first parenting plan was originally agreed to or ordered. Any modification to a parenting plan must also be in the best interests of the child. Florida Statutes 61.13
For more information contact Max Factor.