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What's a Parenting Plan, and Why Do I Need One?

In most Florida divorces involving children, a parenting plan is created to assist the parents with the task of shared parenting. Florida Statutes Chapter 61.13 governs the creation, modification and interpretation of parenting plans. Put simply, a parenting plan is a document approved by the court that describes the new parenting arrangement, designating who will perform which aspects of child-care in a shared parenting situation. They are generally included as part of final judgments of dissolution or marriage or paternity cases, where minor children are concerned. The terms of a parenting plan may by defined by the parties and their counsel, or the court, in the event that the parties are unable to construct a plan on their own.

While working together to create a parenting plan can be difficult, it can save both money and time, and gives more control over the personal aspects of parenting. Nobody knows your family’s dynamics and preferences better than you and the other parent, and you are in the best position to formulate a plan that serves every need and works for everyone concerned. By cooperating on the plan itself, you set a good precedent for cooperative co-parenting in the future.

There are many aspects of a parenting plan which you will need to work out, but the key points of a successful arrangement generally revolve around five different aspects:

  • Overnight stays

  • Drop off and pick up

  • Activity time, including vacations and holidays

  • Daily decisions (bed time, chores, homework, and so on)

  • Major decisions (education, medical, etc.)

In an ideal parenting plan, parents will share time and decision-making. Always remember—you may no longer be married, but you will still be parents. Graduations, birthdays and other celebrations will likely be celebrated together, and if you can approach those situations with clearly defined expectations, you’ll be able to focus on celebrating, rather than navigating conflict.

One of the best ways to start collaborating is to simply make a list of your own expectations before coming together to discuss what each of you want. Be mindful of the parenting tasks each of you customarily performed, and be realistic as to how you’ll divide those tasks in the future. If the child’s school is on the way to one parent’s work while the other works across town, it may make the most sense for that parent to handle school transportation. Even though you no longer share a household, you still share both the joys and responsibilities of bringing up the child, so being fair and flexible goes a long way to ensuring that the transition between parents is smooth for the child.

Although it may take a lot of effort to work with your future ex-spouse to find a way to parent together, it is worth it in the long-term aspects of your child's life. When you demonstrate peaceful decision-making, your children has an opportunity to learn from your positive example.

It is always a good idea to have your divorce attorney look over your parenting plan before it is filed with the court. If you’d like to speak with an experienced family law attorney about how a parenting plan can work for you, please call 904-608-3694.

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