The Role of a Parenting Plan in a Florida Custody Case

Family courts in the state of Florida strive for the absolute best result for all children involved in divorce or custody cases. Children do not choose to be the subject of any dispute between their parents, therefore courts do everything they can to encourage the most amicable resolution that preserves a child’s relationship with both parents whenever possible. This goal is illustrated by the 2008 change to Florida custody laws to eliminate the language of “primary residential” and “secondary residential” parents, as well as the term “visitation.” Furthermore, there is no longer a presumption that custody arrangements should have a certain pattern, such as every other weekend or every other holiday. These legislative changes show the view of the courts to presume both parents as equally important in a child’s life unless circumstances demonstrate otherwise.

The new custody law additionally requires that in any custody case, the parties must submit a “parenting plan” to the family court. This plan is extremely detailed and must be approved by the court. Some topics that this plan must address include:

  • Time-sharing schedules;
  • Healthcare and medical matters;
  • Decisions regarding education and extracurricular activities;
  • The role each parent will play in the upbringing of the child; and
  • How conflicts regarding the child’s upbringing will be resolved.

However, simply because both parents agree on the parenting plan they submit to the court does not mean that the court will automatically approve that plan. Instead, the court is required to evaluate the adequacy and appropriateness of the parenting plan from the perspective of the best interest of the child.

Some factors a court will consider include the following:

  • The physical, mental, and emotional health of the parents;
  • Any special needs of the child;
  • Each parent’s willingness and ability to continue a healthy, emotional relationship with a child;
  • Whether the parents live in close geographic proximity;
  • Any history of abuse on the part of either parent; and
  • Anything else the court finds relevant to the well-being of the child.

If the court does not approve a parenting plan, the parents will have to return to the negotiating table to come up with new proposed arrangements that better suit the children and parents. If, ultimately, the parents cannot agree on terms that the court deems acceptable, the court will step in and make the custody-related determination itself. Extended negotiations, arguments before the court, and additional court proceedings can be very costly and stressful for all involved. For this reason, it is always best for parents to come up with an appropriate parenting plan in the first place, and an attorney’s guidance is invaluable in doing so.

Contact an Experienced Boca Raton Child Custody Attorney for Assistance

If you have a case involving any determinations regarding your children, you always want to make sure the parenting plan and approved arrangements work for all parties involved, especially for your children. An experienced Boca Raton family law attorney knows how to minimize your stress and costs in developing a sufficient parenting plan, so please do not hesitate to contact lawyer Alan R. Burton for help today.