This is a plan that outlines a detailed situation for the parenting of a minor child or children (mean children that have not reached 18 years of age and have not completed secondary education). Shared parenting is a specific terminology used to signify there is no “ownership” of the child or one parent does not receive a preferential ruling and is meant to replace custody, which does imply ownership. Many states are seeking to adopt this type of custody arrangement with Florida being one of them, as they do incorporate shared parenting plans in family law agreements.
In addition, Florida did have legislation passed in 2013 promoting shared parenting as the preferred outcome for a child or children whose parents were divorcing. Unfortunately, that legislation was vetoed by the governor but it is expected to be revisited in this year’s upcoming legislative session.
Child Custody in Florida
All matters pertaining to child custody within the state of Florida are ruled by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). Simply put, this act provides jurisdiction for the Florida courts over a child or children that have lived with a parent for six consecutive months before an action was filed or since birth if the child has not reached six months of age.
Every ruling the court makes on child custody cases in Florida is based upon what is in the best interests of the child meaning:
- A child or children should have regular and stable contact with both parents
- That parents need to share in all matters relating to the raising of their children
In determining this the court reviews these aspects to establish a shared parenting plan:
- Parental responsibility. This can either be shared, where the parents have a 50-50 say in all decisions regarding the child or children. The only occasions where this would not be in the child’s best interests are in cases of domestic violence or other unsavory behavior that would make that environment dangerous for the child. In that instance, it would be sole parental responsibility, where one parent is responsible for all the major decisions in a child’s life. Under Florida law is exceptionally difficult to obtain a ruling of sole custody.
- Time-sharing. This includes: the day-to-day activities involved in rearing a child, deducing how much time the child spends with each parent and how a parent will communicate with their child.
How is a Shared Parenting Plan Developed?
In the early stages of the action, both parents must attend a Parent Education and Family Stabilization course. This four hour educational period is mandated by the courts and will aid parents in learning about the effects of the dissolution of their partnership will have on their children. After attending this course, parents are asked to begin molding their ideas on how to proceed in a framework for their plan.
What a Parenting Plan Is Not
When first glancing over this material it can be a bit confusing about what these plans entail and they do not necessarily follow these guidelines:
Arranging a 50-50 allocation of time as there may be no set schedule
Not allowing for child support as both parents are required to financially support their child or children
One parent will not be allowed to override another parent in decision-making and often a second opinion will be sought in cases of wide disagreement.
What Should Be Included in a Shared Parenting Plan?
A very detailed week-to-week schedule of parenting with both parents involved. It should include specific times and dates for parents caring for their children.
A holiday schedule with all arrangements included for multiple years.
A vacation schedule or times the parent wants to take their child on a trip and how they must notify the other parent of their intentions.
Health care provisions on who is supplying what funds for the premium, how that will be deduced and for how long.
Which parent will apply the annual tax exemption each year
Details on how to obtain make-up time if a parent cannot spend time with their child at certain junctures.
Who does or pays for what if the child or children is involved in extracurricular activities
Provide each parent with the ability to possess all the child or children’s records
“Can a Parenting Plan Be Altered?
Of course, as the courts understand life is a fluid process and circumstances inevitably change. Here are the situations where a plan can be modified:
If a parent can show their life circumstances have vastly been altered since the time the plan went into effect
The previous or current plan is not working for some particular reason or reasons