Parenting Plan Guidelines in Florida
Those with children face a difficult challenge when navigating a divorce. Not only must the parents consider the emotional and psychological impact of such a decision on the child, but it is also necessary to determine how to arrange child custody and parenting time. Divorcing couples often dispute child-based issues as each tries to do what is best for the child, in their particular view. Understandably, parents are passionate about their children, and want to create the best possible environment in the wake of divorce. Ideally, the parties will mutually agree on the terms of parenting time, but if such agreement is not possible, the court will formulate an arrangement based on parameters set out in Florida law.
The concept of child custody is no longer applicable under Florida law, and all issues surroundings parental responsibilities and rights are now under the heading of parenting time. Parenting plans are documents created following a divorce that describe how the parents will raise the child going forward. Specific provisions must be included in all parenting plans, and courts consider a number of factors when assessing whether to approve a parenting plan or how the court should form one. Regardless of whether the parents negotiate these issues or leave it to the court, these decisions are both complex and vitally important. Therefore, to help parents better understand how these issues are viewed by the courts, a brief overview of Florida law in these areas will follow below.
Legal Preferences for Parenting Arrangements
Generally, the law favors awarding parents an equal division of time with their children and shared responsibilities for childrearing. This preference is driven by the public policy of encouraging equal contact with both parents and eliminating any partiality in favor of either parent. The overwhelming determiner of all parenting time decisions is the best interests of the child. This means the court will divide responsibilities and decision-making power, such as education and healthcare, in accordance with the best interests of the child, which could leave one parent with more authority than the other.
While all parenting time orders start from the premise of equal time sharing, contact between a child and a parent may be limited or forbidden if it would be detrimental to the child. In case of domestic violence, evidence of such a history or conviction for this offense is automatically viewed as detrimental to the child, and the parent must present evidence to overcome this presumption or face losing parental rights.
Parenting Time Factors
In order for a court to analyze which type of parenting time arrangement would be in the best interests of the child, the judge must evaluate factors affecting the child’s welfare, interests, and familial circumstances. Some of the factors used in this analysis include:
- the ability of each parent to encourage a close relationship between the child and the other parent, to comply with the time-sharing schedule, and to be sensible when changes are necessary;
- the ability of each parent to put the needs of the child first;
- how long the child has lived in a stable environment and how best to maintain this situation;
- the logistical feasibility of the parenting plan, with particular attention paid to the necessary travel time between parents;
- the parents’ mental and physical health;
- the ability of each parent to maintain a consistent schedule for the child; and
- the child’s preference if the court finds the child of sufficient age and maturity to make a reasonable choice.
Consult a Family Law Attorney
If you are going through a divorce and share children with your spouse, it is important to speak with a family law attorney before agreeing to a parenting plan. Parenting plans will govern how your child is raised for years to come, so it is essential to make sure the arrangement is best for you and your child. Additionally, there are multiple legal requirements for all parenting plans that will get it rejected by the court if they are not included, which means more time and expense for redrafting. The Tampa law firm of Bubley & Bubley, P.A. understands the importance of parent/child relationships and will work to obtain the results you desire. Contact the firm for a free consultation.