When parents dissolve their marriage or divorce, they must formulate a plan to take care for their children. A parenting plan is an important part of child custody in Florida.

Details of plan

These plans set forth the details of parenting before, during and after the marriage dissolves. It addresses shared decision-making for major and routine matters concerning the child’s life. These plans also contain regular, holiday and break schedules for parenting time.

A parenting plan may also cover routine matters such as the address for the child’s school registration and boundary determination. Technologies for communicating with the children can be covered.

Developing a plan

Courts must approve a parenting plan. The best interest of the child guide their decisions.

Courts rely on a long list of factors to determine the child’s best interest. These include each parent’s capacity and willingness to encourage and enable a close and ongoing parent-child relationship, comply with the time-sharing schedule and being reasonable and flexible when changes are needed.

Other factors include the length of time the child lived in a stable and satisfactory environment and whether it is desirable to stay in that environment, the parents’ moral fitness and health and the child’s home school and community record. The plan should also be geographically feasible and consider the children’s education needs and time spent traveling between the parents.

A court may consider the child’s preference. But it must find that the child has sufficient intelligence, understanding and experience to set forth their preference.

Finally, courts will consider any evidence of domestic violence or child abuse, abandonment, or neglect regardless of whether legal actions were brought for those acts. If it accepts evidence of these charges, the court must specifically acknowledge in writing that it considered this evidence when determining the best interest of the child.

This process is less stressful for the entire family when parents cooperate, focus on the child’s best interests, and negotiate a plan in good faith. An attorney can advise parents on custody and visitation matters, represent their rights, and seek a plan that is beneficial for the children.