Understanding Custody Agreements & Parenting Plans

What is “parental responsibility”?

“Parental responsibility” is used to talk about who has the power to make decisions for the child.  Florida law does not use the term “custody.”

The court wants both parents to share the responsibility for making decisions about the child and will order this unless it is not in the child’s best interest.

“Sole parental responsibility” is when the court orders one parent to make all of the decisions for the child alone, without the other parent. Even if the court orders sole parental responsibility the court can still order time-sharing with the other parent.

What is time-sharing?

“Time-sharing” is used to talk about when the parents spend time with the child, Florida law does not use the term “visitation.”

What is dissolution of marriage?

“Dissolution of marriage” is what divorce is called in Florida.

Do I have to have a parenting plan?

Yes, even if you and your spouse agree on the terms, if you are divorcing and have children under 18 you will have a parenting plan. There are many things that the court will consider when making a parenting plan. The law requires the judge to try to make sure that children have regular and ongoing contact with both parents. Both parents are supposed to “share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing.”

Parenting plans are one of the things in a divorce that you and your spouse can agree on, by negotiation or mediation. An agreement on a parenting plan can then be given to the judge for approval.

What has to be in a parenting plan?

A parenting plan has to include:

  • how the parties plan to share daily tasks involved in raising a child/children;
  • a time-sharing schedule;
  • a decision as to who will be in charge of filling out forms for health care, school, and other activities; and,
  • how parents will communicate with the children.

If you have children under 18, the law in Florida also requires that both spouses attend a parenting class before the court can enter a final dissolution of marriage. The clerk of court near you can give you more specific information on when and where these classes are available.

What factors does the court take into consideration when deciding the best interests of the child?

The law directs the judge to looks at 20 things to help decide what would be best for the child(ren):

  • Whether each parent has shown that they are able and want to help have a close relationship with the child, take the schedule seriously, and can be sensible when they do have to make changes.
  • How the parent’s responsibilities for the child will be divided after the divorce, including how much responsibility for the child people other than the parents will have.
  • How each of the parents has shown they make the child’s needs a priority over the needs of their own.
  • How long has the child lived in a stable place and how important is it for him/her to stay there.
  • Where everyone lives, especially thinking about how much time the child will have to spend travelling.
  • The moral fitness of the parents.
  • The mental and physical health of the parents.
  • The home, school, and community record of the child.
  • What the child wants.
  • How each of the parents has shown interest in keeping up-to-date about the child with things like his/her interests, friends, and teachers.
  • How each of the parents has shown that they give the child a regular schedule that stays the same for things like rules, homework, meals, and bedtime.
  • How each of the parents has shown that they let the other parent know what is happening with the child, and how each is willing to work with the other as a team when it comes to the child.
  • Any information about domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, or mistreatment.
  • Information that either parent has lied to the court about violence, sexual violence, abuse, or mistreatment of a child.
  • What parenting jobs each parent did before the divorce (and which were done by other people).
  • The interest each parent has shown in being involved in the child’s activities in and out of school.
  • How each of the parents has shown they don’t let the child be around drug and alcohol abuse.
  • How each of the parents has shown they avoid talking about the divorce with the child and avoid saying things that are not kind about the other parent to the child.
  • The developmental stages and needs of the child and how each parent has shown they can meet those needs.
  • Anything else that helps the judge decide.

Original article by floridalawhelp.