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Parenting Plan: Understanding Legal Lingo

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The divorce process involves sorting out almost every facet of your married life. After your divorce is finalized, you will receive various documents containing valuable information you may need to reference occasionally. If you have children with your ex-spouse, one of those documents is the parenting plan, which is part of your final judgement. Understanding the parenting plan can give you confidence and peace when custody situations arise.

What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan is a document prepared during a divorce or separation that provides a road map for custody time-sharing, decision-making, and resolving disputes. It includes things like time-sharing, a definitive schedule of visitation between the parents, who and how major decisions will be made for the child, and how disputes will be handled should they arise. A parenting plan is legally enforceable when it has been made part of the final judgement or order of the court.

What are the standard terms used in a parenting plan?

There are three types of parenting plans in Florida:

  1. 50/50 Week on week off (most common)

  2. Long-distance parenting plan

  3. Supervised/Safety-focused parenting plan

Most families will use the regular parenting plan. The long-distance plan will be implemented for situations where a parent lives outside of the general area as the child's primary home. A supervised/safety-focused parenting plan is generally used when one parent is deemed unstable by the courts and allows the court to exert more stringent requirements on said parent during visitations. Regardless of your parenting plan, many decisions must be made for your child.

Some of the things you will need to agree upon with your co-parent are:

Parental responsibility and decision-making: this designation determines which parent will make critical decisions for the child(ren).

  1. Shared parental responsibility: Parents agree to make decisions about the child's education, healthcare, etc., together.

  2. Sole parental responsibility: One parent makes all major decisions for the child.

Day-to-day decisions are generally shared between parents and would fall onto the parent who is in the physical custody of the child at the time the findings need to be made. You will also need to determine which parent, one or both, has decision-making power in extracurricular activities.

Information Sharing: Unless otherwise determined by the court, both parents are allowed to:

a) request school records

b) request medical records

c) request governmental/law enforcement records involving their children

d) discuss their children with daycare, schools, medical staff, etc.

e) be listed as emergency contacts on official forms

f) current phone number, physical address, mailing address or co-parent

Time-sharing Schedule: includes what days and times the children will be with each parent throughout the year. Time-sharing schedules also include how school holidays, spring breaks, winter breaks, summer breaks, and vacations will be handled. In most instances, parents will decide which days of the week the child will stay overnight with each parent to include a specific time the child will be returned to the co-parent. The court also requires documenting the number of overnight stays with each parent, equalling 365 days.

Transportation and exchange: determines which parent will be responsible for transporting the child and how the child exchange will be handled. This may seem simple, but during volatile divorce situations, often, co-parents need to agree to meet at a neutral site for the exchange of the children. Sometimes, a third party may be involved in transporting the children to avoid further conflicts. Making these determinations in a parenting plan may seem overboard, but the children's best interest is always at the forefront of every family law case.

Foreign and out-of-state travel: determines how parents are allowed to travel with children outside their home area.

Education: parents will designate which schools the child will attend and whether there is an option for private or home school.

Communication: the parenting plan will designate how co-parents communicate and how the children can communicate with parents they are not currently visiting.

Childcare: determines how childcare decisions will be made if the parents need to seek outside childcare from the designated school or themselves. Sometimes, parents may insert a caveat called the "first right of refusal." This states that if the parent in custody of the child cannot care for them at the time, they must return the child to the co-parent before finding alternative caretakers.

How do I modify my parenting plan?

As with all things in life, changes will sometimes arise in your situation. If one of the previously mentioned terms needs updating, you will need to file a Supplemental Petition for Modification. The court requires that there must be a substantial change in the circumstances before it will be allowed or consider a request to modify the prior order. Depending on the circumstances of the change, you may need to hire a family law attorney in Tallahassee to help you with the modification.

When it comes to the best interest of your children, it's essential to choose a family law attorney with extensive experience. Max Factor and his team have assisted families like yours with parenting plan modifications for decades. We're here to help! Please complete our help survey today and tell us your story.

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