Florida’s Preference for the Parenting Plan

In Florida, as well as in other states across the country, there has been a gigantic shift in the attitude that the State holds with regards to child custody. In the past, child custody was generally held to be the responsibility of one custodial guardian while the other parent received visitation rights. There was an unspoken presumption that the best parent for minor children was the mother. However, the trending shift away from a custodial parent-visiting parent model toward a co-parenting model has led to the state’s preference for a child to be the responsibility, at the time of a divorce, of both parents. If you are considering a divorce and are looking for help in drafting a parenting plan, it is important to speak with an experienced family law attorney.

Parenting Plans as Part of the Divorce Settlement

In Florida, at the time of the divorce where young children are a part of the equation, parents are required, as part of their divorce settlement, to create a parenting plan that will be approved and implemented by the Florida courts. The parenting plan, in short, will determine the lifestyle choices and decision-making responsibility of each parent with regards to the raising of young children. The parenting plan will determine where the minor child(ren) live (if not at both parents’ homes), which parent will make decisions about which elements of the child(ren)’s upbring, and major decision regarding the welfare, the education, healthcare, and other major life choices of the children.

Co-Parenting: Two Parents are Better than One

The purpose of the change in preference by the State toward co-parenting is to support parents and their ability to come to a compromise over the raising of the children. For example, one parent who is a medical physician may be found to be in a better position to determine health care and wellbeing decisions in the event the children are in a life-threatening emergency. Another parent, one who is more of an academic or is otherwise involved in the day-to-day development of the child(ren), may be found to be better suited to make decisions about the school or educational opportunities that the child should attend or participate in.

The Best Interest of the Child(ren) and the Parenting Plan

The primary consideration of the Parenting Plan is the best interest of the child(ren) who are at the center of the dispute. If parents cannot come to a decision on the best parenting plan, or if the parenting plan decided on by the parents is not approved by the court, the family court will determine the parameters and details of the parenting plan in the best interest of the child(ren).

Factors the Court Will Evaluate When Approving a Parenting Plan

The court will evaluate when drafting or approving the parenting plan the following:

  • The capacity of each parent to maintain a relationship and involvement with the children involved;
  • The ability of each parent to honor the time sharing principles decided upon within the agreement;
  • How, in the past, the parental responsibilities were divided and how the parents would like to divide up the responsibilities in the future;
  • The viability of the parenting plan, to ensure that geographically the parents’ homes are not too far away from each other, or that the plan does not require significant travel for the children between the homes or activities that the children are involved in;
  • The mental, emotional, and physical health of each parent;
  • The child(ren)’s preference if mature enough to choose the correct lifestyle choices for his/her/their development; among other factors.

Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation regarding parental rights and how to get the best parenting plan possible for your children.