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Parenting Plans in Family Law & Divorce Cases

By The Spence Law Firm Oct. 27, 2023

Divorce and family law cases can seem overwhelming at times. The process may seem long and tedious and can be especially draining due to the extreme emotional situations that can occur. It’s best to look at the divorce and family law process by examining the major components and processes. In this article, we look at parenting plans used in Orlando divorce and paternity cases.

If your case involves one or more minor children, then the judge in your case is required by Florida law to enter a parenting plan as part of the final judgment. Even if both parents agree on everything related to the children, your lawyer will still have to draft a parenting plan for the court to enter.

What Is a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a written document that describes in detail all aspects of the relationship between the children and the parents. The parenting plan becomes part of the final judgment in your divorce or paternity case so it’s a legally binding document. In general, the parenting plan describes how the parents will make decisions about the children’s healthcare and education and the applicable time-sharing schedule for the parents and children. We continue a more detailed description of the contents below.

Why Do We Need a Parenting Plan

In fashioning a parenting plan, the guiding principle is the best interest of the child or children.

The central aspect of a Parenting Plan is that it emphasizes the child's best interest. According to Florida Statutes (Chapter 61.13), the law requires that all decisions made regarding the parenting plan and time-sharing schedule must be made in the best interests of the child.

What Are the Topics Contained in A Parenting Plan?

A Florida Parenting Plan generally covers several key topics:

1. Parental Responsibility & Decision-Making: It describes how both parents will share and be responsible for making important decisions related to the upbringing of the child, decisions about appropriate health care, education, and other significant areas. Sometimes one parent can be awarded the right to make certain decisions by themselves.

2. Information Sharing: Describes how the parties both have access to the child’s medical information, educational records and other information related to the child.

3. Time-Sharing Schedule: This outlines when the children will spend time with each parent, including weekdays, weekends, holidays, school breaks, and special occasions.

4. Education: talks about which school district the child will attend.

5. Communication: The plan includes provisions for how parents will communicate with each other and with their children when they are not with them. This could involve phone calls, video chats, emails, or text messages.

6. Transportation and Exchanges: The plan specifies the details of how and when the children will be transferred between parents. For example, it will spell out the requirements for a child to travel by airplane or train.

7. Travel outside the state and outside the country. The plan typically requires notice to the non-traveling parent, who must provide reasonable notice, an itinerary and phone numbers where the child can be called.

8. Dispute Resolution: In case of any disagreements about the parenting plan in the future, it outlines the steps the parents will take to resolve them, usually requiring mediation before litigation.

9. Additional provisions: Examples of additional terms that can be incorporated include a right of first refusal if one parent puts the child in daycare; travel restrictions, dietary restrictions, or special needs requirements.

What Does a Parenting Plan Actually Look Like?

You can follow the links below to see what three basic Florida Parenting Plans looks like. Your Orlando divorce or family law lawyer will counsel you on additional provisions that may be used in your parenting plan.

  1. Regular Parenting Plan is used in most cases where the parents live in the same area. PDF link

  2. Long distance Parenting Plan is used when the parents do not live in the same area and traveling is necessary to carry out the timesharing plan. PDF link

  3. Safety-Focused Parenting Plan is used when one of the parents could pose a threat or danger to the child. PDF link

What Is the Process to Obtain a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan must be used in any case involving a minor child or children. The parenting plan may be agreed to voluntarily by the parties, otherwise it is decided by the court. Here are the various ways that a parenting plan could be agreed to in a divorce or paternity case in Orlando:

1. Parenting Plan by Agreement of the Parents: Either individually or jointly, the parents draft a proposed Parenting Plan. This can be done with or without the assistance of an attorney, but legal advice is generally recommended to ensure all elements are adequately addressed.

2. Parenting Plan through Mediation: If the parents cannot agree on a plan by themselves, it usually helps to attend mediation. The mediation process uses a neutral third-party mediator to facilitate discussion of settlement and compromise.

3. Parenting Plan Entered by Court: If the parents cannot agree to a parenting plan one way or the other, then the court will decide the issues for the parents and enter its own parenting plan. The court must follow the statutory requirements set forth in Florida Statutes § 61.13(2), to determine the time sharing plan that is in the best interest of the child.

4. Finalizing the Plan: Once a parenting plan is filed with the court, the judge will incorporate the Parenting Plan into the final divorce or paternity decree, making it a legally binding document.

Contact the Spence Law Firm with Questions About Parenting Plans

Understanding parenting plans is very important for parents involved in divorce or paternity cases in Orlando and the rest of Florida. If you have any questions, feel free to contact the Spence Law Firm for a free consultation.