What is a Parenting Plan and WHY do I need one?
A Parenting Plan is the document that governs the custodial agreement between the parents. The Parenting Plan will address custody and time-sharing agreements, school and extracurricular activities, medical and healthcare matters, and any other circumstances relevant to the particular child. Parenting Plans are formulated to lay out expectations and avoid conflicts. Although a plan cannot anticipate every possible occurrence, it will provide a road map that can make the process of sharing responsibility for a child much easier. Once Paternity is established under Florida law, a Parenting Plan specifically created to meet the needs of the child needs to be created and approved by the court. The parents should to cooperate to arrive at an agreement about how the child will be raised and how each parent will participate in the child’s upbringing, however, if the parents are unable to agree, then the Court will step in and create the Parenting Plan for the child and the parents will have to abide by the Courts ruling. If the parents fail to agree on a Parenting Plan or come up with a plan that the court will not approve, then the Court will step in and establish the Parenting Plan, eliminating a lot of control from the hands of the parents. Therefore, it is in the best interests of both the parents and the child to come up an acceptable Plan. In establishing a Parenting Plan, the court will consider the following: (a) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required. (b) The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties. (c) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent. (d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity. (e) The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child. (f) The moral fitness of the parents. (g) The mental and physical health of the parents. (h) The home, school, and community record of the child. (i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference. (j) The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things. (k) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime. (l) The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child. (m) Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought. If the court accepts evidence of prior or pending actions regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, the court must specifically acknowledge in writing that such evidence was considered when evaluating the best interests of the child. (n) Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect. (o) The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties. (p) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities. (q) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse. (r) The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child. (s) The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs. (t) Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule. As long as you and your former spouse remain flexible, respectful, and keep the best interests of your children at the heart of the discussion, the two of you can create a solid parenting plan. For assistance in putting together an agreement that will help your children thrive after the divorce and let both parents stay involved and active in their lives, contact Jarbath Pena Law Group.