Frequently Asked Questions About Parenting Plans in Florida
A lot of people who have recently gotten divorced put on a smile and talk about what a relief it is to be rid of an unwanted spouse. A recently divorced man’s friends may congratulate him on finally being free of the old ball and chain, while a recently divorced woman may excitedly tell her relatives during a holiday dinner about how she finally mustered the courage to kick her ex to the curb. If you and your ex-spouse have children, together, though, your obligation to reach an agreement with your ex-spouse does not end until your youngest child reaches adulthood. Florida courts recognize that some divorced couples are on such bad terms with each other that it is not possible for them to agree between themselves on how to raise their children. Florida parenting plans are a formal way of ensuring that all children of divorced parents receive consistency in their upbringing, even if their parents are enemies. A parenting plan involves big decisions, and no matter how easily you can or cannot get along with your ex-spouse, it is a good idea to consult a family lawyer before you file a parenting plan with the court.
Q: What Is the Purpose of Parenting Plans?
A: The purpose of a parenting plan is to ensure the best interests of the children. The Florida family courts acknowledge that every family is unique, so it is not possible to apply the same rules to every family. For example, it would be a disaster for some families if the children were required to stay with the mother from Sunday evening to Friday evening and then spend the weekends with their father. What if the father is a DJ who works until 4:00 in the morning on Friday and Saturday evenings? What if the mother takes evening classes on weeknights? Likewise, parenting plans are flexible enough to be made to fit families where the parents behave in a civil manner toward each other, families where the parents have such a bad relationship that they are legally forbidden to be in the same room at the same time, and everything in between.
Q: What Guidelines Do Parenting Plans Specify?
A: Parenting plans include more specific information than just which parent has the children on which day. For example, they also include information about drop-off and pick-up of the child. This way, parents cannot make excuses to skip their parenting time because of lack of transportation, nor can they waste time arguing about whose turn it is to transport the children. They also specify how the parents will divide the authority to make decisions about the children’s education and non-emergency medical treatment. They also include provisions about how often the children will be required to communicate with one parent while they are spending time with the other parent. For example, the parenting plan can stipulate that, while the children are with their mother from Sunday evening to Friday evening, they must call their father once during that time. The parenting plan might also say that the children must send their mother one text message per 24-hour period that they are not with her.
Q: What Do Parenting Plans Say About Grandparents?
A: Parents may choose to include specific provisions about grandparents or other relatives in the parenting plan, as, in some families, these relatives play a major role in raising the children. They might say that the children will spend a certain number of nights per month at the grandparents’ house, or they might assign grandparents part of the responsibility to transport the children from one parent to the other. Designating a role for grandparents or other members of the children’s extended family can be very helpful in facilitating co-parenting when the parents have no contact with each other because of a history of domestic violence or other serious problems.
Q: What Does the Parenting Plan Say About Money?
A: Parenting plans are completely separate from child support agreements. In the parenting plan, parents may specify who is responsible for the costs of transporting the children from one parent’s home to the other. They can also specify which parent has the authority to choose daycare, extracurricular activities, and similar expenditures related to the child. In other words, they can prevent some conflicts about money, but their primary purpose is to prevent conflicts about time.
Contact Sean Smallwood, P.A. About Parenting Plans
A family lawyer can help you determine the implications of the choices you make in a parenting plan and help you choose what is best for you and your children. Contact Sean Smallwood, P.A. in Orlando, Florida for a consultation.
Sean Smallwood is an Orlando divorce attorney for the law firm Sean Smallwood, Orlando Divorce & Family Law P.A. where he represents clients in all areas of family law and divorce. 100% of the practice is devoted to family law. As an attorney in Orlando, he has helped many families with a wide variety of family law cases including Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, and many other issues.