WHAT IS A PARENTING PLAN?
A Parenting Plan is a legally binding agreement made between parents, and ratified by the court, setting forth the terms and conditions of co-parenting. The Parenting Plan addresses timesharing (custody) issues, decision making (responsibility) issues, logistics, and all other matters affecting the children.
WHEN WOULD A PARENTING PLAN BE USED?
When a couple with children divorces or a non-married couple with children separates, a parenting plan is prepared to guide the parents and better enable them to co-parent, though they are no longer, or never have been, a couple.
A BRIEF HISTORY
Parenting Plans are a relatively new concept in Florida. In the past, child sharing arrangements were known as “custody" and “visitation." Those terms have now been eliminated and replaced with “parental responsibility" and “time sharing," respectively. This recent change in legislation was a result of excess litigation and fighting over who was the “primary parent" and who was just a “visitor." These new terms are intended to increase cooperation between the parents and enables them to co-parent effectively long after the final judgment.
THE SUBSTANCE OF A PARENTING PLAN
A Parenting Plan addresses two major issues: Time Sharing (custody) and Decision Making (Responsibility). The Parenting Plan describes, in great detail, where and how the children will be spending their time. It addresses each child’s daily schedule, holiday time sharing, vacation time sharing, as well as all of the communication and logistical concerns associated with the Time Sharing. The Parenting Plan also delineates whether the parents will make major decisions affecting the children together, or whether one parent is better equipped, depending on the individual circumstances, to make the decisions solely. A strong parenting plan reduces and helps to eliminate future litigation concerning time sharing and decision making issues concerning the minor children.
PARENTING PLANS IN PATERNITY CASES
A parenting plan in a paternity case (for children born out of wedlock) works the same way as a parenting plan in a divorce. While the parents no longer, or never even had, a personal relationship with each other, they still have a parenting relationship for the benefit of the child. It is especially important that an appropriate parenting plan be drafted so that the parties can seamlessly co-parent, such that the child never feels unwanted, unheard, or in the middle.
DRAFTING A PARENTING PLAN
At Levinson & Capuano, Divorce & Family Law Firm, we believe it is always best for the parents to negotiate a Parenting Plan, through their attorneys, that suits the individual family’s needs most appropriately. However, if after negotiations, an agreement still cannot be reached, the court will impose a Parenting Plan, considering evidence presented by each side and the best interests of the child.