Remember Kramer vs Kramer? Or the Squid and the Whale? Divorce is never easy and it only gets more complicated when kids are involved. One of the of the hardest things to do, especially when you would rather throw a coffee cup at your ex, is to sit down and work out a parenting plan. But if you live in Florida, sit down you must, because courts in your state require a parenting plan along with divorce paperwork when you divorce or separate.
A Parenting Plan sets out the schedule and protocols for the living arrangements of children with separated parents. It is supposed to help parents avoid conflicts that arise in dealing with responsibilities relating to childcare. Without specific agreements around these responsibilities disputes can arise, and litigation, or coffee cups, may be needed to resolve these issues. Some of the elements you will need to work out in the development of a parenting plan include:
A detailed statement explaining how each parent will divide the responsibilities and tasks that are part of the child-rearing process;
The arrangements that have been made for the time-sharing schedule, specifically delineating how much time and in what manner each parent will spend time with the child;
A determination of who will have the ultimate responsibility for making health care and school-related decisions, including the designation of the residence that determines the child’s school district;
The means by which each parent will communicate with the child, specifically setting forth whether the primary contact will be by telephone or a digital medium.
While setting up arrangements for daily life may be relatively easy, negotiating a family plan can sometimes get sticky, especially during unusual times like holidays or vacations, or situations where one parent is moving. A couple of things that may require special consideration are issues like traveling and relocation. For example, you may want to draft a clause into your parenting plan that states that either parent must provide notice to the non-traveling parent and a detailed itinerary before traveling with the child. Similarly, you should think ahead regarding any planned relocation. Florida statutes govern the requirements when a parent desires to move more than 50 miles and 60 consecutive days from the residence at the time the parenting plan is ordered. A parent may be held in contempt of court if they relocate without the other parent’s written permission or an order of the court.
Two useful negotiating tools that many parents use to avoid the coffee-cup scenario are log books, which can be sent between parents to facilitate non-acrimonious business communication, or designated email accounts which are used to only discuss things like visitation schedule changes, doctor visits, school events, medications for the children, etc. Using these methods you can keep the lines of communication open, without having to risk the breakdown of a ceasefire that can be provoked by face to face negotiation.
This short introduction on family law parenting plans should get you started thinking about ways to contribute to the security and emotional well-being of your child during a divorce, while at the same time protecting your own. Click here to get started filling out your Florida Family Law Parenting Plan with PDFfiller. And if things get tricky, just remember to duck!