What Will Be In Your Florida Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan in Florida should be customized to the lives of your children

For any couple with children who divorce in Florida, one of the fundamental pieces of their divorce settlement will be their child custody arrangements. However, Florida, like many states has done away with the "child custody" and "visitation" language in favor of the concept of a parenting plan.

A parenting plan is just that. It is the plan of how you will be a parent for your children after your divorce. It will detail many of the important aspects of your responsibilities for your children. It will describe how you will share time with your former spouse, which can range from the children spending most of their time with one parent to a virtual 50/50 split of time between both parents.

It will also lay out the decision-making responsibility of each parent and how you will work together to make decisions about your children. This, too, can reside with one parent, but in most cases, is allocated between the two parents as a joint-decision making capacity.

Best interests

The overarching guideline of a parenting plan is "the best interests of the child or children." This can be simple to say and somewhat more difficult to put into practice. It means that as a parent you are expected to place your desires and wishes behind what is best for your child.

The courts will employ a very broad set of factors to determine what constitutes the "best interests" in a particular situation. However, you don't have to leave it to some judge. You and the other parent of your children should work together to develop a parenting plan that fully realizes those "best interests." After all, who knows your children better?

What to think about

There is much talk about "shared parenting," and there is even some research that may suggest that for some children of some parents, it may be best. Nevertheless, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to divorce or parenting plans.

Certainly, when two parents are willing to work together to minimize conflict and demonstrate every day that the children are loved and cared for deeply, they will recognize that and it is likely to improve every element of their lives.

But have to look at your situation and examine all of the details. If you and your soon-to-be former spouse both work in the Orlando area and will live in the same school district after your divorce, having the children spend half their time at each household may be practical.

However, if you or your spouse has a job that demands a great deal of travel on a regular basis each month, it is very unlikely that you will be able to allocate an even sharing of the children's time. It may be too unsettled for young children, and it may be too disruptive for the other parent to cope with.

It may be better to change the parenting time to the children spending more time with the non-traveling parent. The traveling parent may decide to take a single, long-block of time for a summer vacation and have the children for that period to make up for their unavailability the rest of the year.

Will it really work?

Whatever your final arrangements, you need to rigorously examine your life and work and ensure that if you have the children every two or three days, your actually can be there for them, getting them off to school, taking them to extracurricular or after-school activities and ensuring they have dinner beyond a fast-food drive through, and that they get to bed on a regular schedule.

If that won't work for you, your parenting plan had better reflect the reality you can maintain, not the one you wished would occur.

Working through the parenting plan form in great detail with your attorney is a good way to develop a parenting plan you and your children can live with.