What is a Parenting Plan and Why do Family Lawyers Use Them?
Whenever an Orlando family law attorney is engaged in litigation that involves child custody issues, he or she will spend a great deal of time contemplating what terms are to be negotiated and placed into a parenting plan.
A parenting plan is a written instruction manual that addresses nearly every aspect of the parenting of children. A parenting plan can either be agreed to by the parties to the child custody case, ordered by a judge after the trial or partially agreed to by the parents and partially ordered by a judge after a family law trial. Regardless of how the parenting plan is developed, it will constitute a court-ordered roadmap for every substantial piece of parenting until the child becomes an adult.
While there are many substantial aspects of parenting that are covered in parenting plans this article is only going to touch on a few of the most important ones. For a more complete understanding of every provision that these documents contain you can refer to the section of the Florida statute that describes the necessary elements of these parenting agreements.
One of the most important provisions in any parenting plan is the section on parental responsibility. Parental responsibility essentially determines whether the parents will have equal say in all major decisions related to the children. These decisions include, but are not limited to, educational, medical, and religious training.
In most cases, the parties will be awarded shared parental responsibility and will be court ordered to have an equal say in major decisions related to the kids. If one parent makes a major decision without attempting to reach an agreement on it with the other parent then they can be held in contempt of court and get slapped with sanctions including attorney’s fees for the other side, parenting classes, community service, and completely reversing the decision that they unilaterally made.
Additionally, if that unilateral decision is something that affects the other parent’s ability to spend time with the child, communicate with the child, and be a part of the child’s life then it could rise to the level of swaying a family law judge to change the time-sharing schedule if it takes place inside of a child custody parenting plan modification case.
Regular Time-Sharing Schedule
Another extremely important aspect of parenting plans is the section that dictates the regular time-sharing schedule. A regular time-sharing schedule describes what contact the children are going to have with each parent throughout the nonholiday school year. In most areas, this will constitute most of the child’s time.
Just like the section on regular time-sharing, the holiday visitation schedule specifies how the parents will divide the child’s time on school holidays such as summer, winter break, spring break, and others. The holiday custody schedule can add significant parenting time to a litigant’s parenting schedule and so the holiday breakdown must be paid close attention to by the family lawyers.
One of the shortest yet most important provisions in any parenting plan will be in the section that limits relocation with children. Every parenting plan must contain a provision that subjects the parties to the Florida relocation statute. The relocation statute restricts a parent from moving more than 50 miles from their current residence for any period of 60 days or longer without either obtaining the written consent of the other parent, or a court granting a relocation.
The reason this is so important is because if a parent moves more than 50 miles away with the child it generally transitions their time-sharing schedule to an “long-distance” parenting plan and will usually result with one parent having a vast majority of the overnight time-sharing with the minor child and the other parent having less of the overnights which will usually be concentrated around school holiday time.
When the relocation statute governs the parties, any parent wanting to move more than 50 miles away without the agreement of the other party would need to file a special type of petition requesting a relocation, have the other party served, and go through a complex court process that could end in a trial on the issue of relocation.
Relocations are not easy to get granted by a judge, however, if your case is not handled properly it could result in giving the other party a tactical advantage if they decide that they want to move far away with the child.
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.