Most Floridians understand that the parties in a divorce that involves minor children must resolve all issues concerning physical and legal custody and visitation before the Court will sign an order granting the divorce. Understanding the nature and mechanics of a parenting plan, may, however, be a step that neither ex-spouse has mastered.
The Florida courts provide extensive explanations of the contents of an acceptable parenting plan, and these explanations provide highly useful guidance to divorcing parents who may be struggling with reaching an agreement on a parenting plan.
The Supreme Court’s definition of parenting plan
A parenting plan is required in all divorces involving minor children, even if the child sharing timetable is not disputed. The plan must be developed by the parents and approved by the court.
What does the court consider in judging a parenting plan?
As with all issues involving the status of minor children, the court will examine the plan to ensure that it provides maximum protection for the best interests of the child. The plan must state in writing a detailed schedule of the various tasks associated with the upbringing of the child, the schedule for the amount of time that the child will spend with each parent, and the designation of which parent will be responsible for any and all forms of health care, school-related matters, and the methods that each parent will use to communicate with the child.
The list of specific factors concerning the child’s best interests begins with the capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and enduring parent-child relationship. The court also considers the capacity of each parent to determine, consider and act upon the needs of the child.
The court also looks at the mental and physical health of each parent and the moral fitness of each parent. Evidence of domestic violence will weigh heavily on the court’s decision to approve or reject the plan.
The parenting plan must be reasonable and able to ensure the best interests of the child. A plan that does not satisfy these criteria will probably be rejected by the judge, and other methods, such as referral to third-party professionals, will be ordered.
An experienced family lawyer can provide helpful advice in drafting a parenting plan that has a maximum chance of being approved by the court.