Parenting Plan

In Florida, the law favors a relationship where a child maintains frequent and continuing contact with both parents. When parents divorce, their divorce decree must have a parenting plan that outlines who makes major decisions for their children and how the parents will ensure that the child receives time with both parents. Parents will decide together on the children's schedules and how they will resolve disputes when they can't agree on childrearing. If parents cannot agree, whether they're divorcing or separating, they will likely need the court's intervention, and a judge will create a parenting plan. Under Florida law, parenting plans must include:

  • How parents plan to share daily responsibilities and decision-making of raising a child
  • A schedule that describes arrangements that ensure the child has time with each parent
  • How healthcare will be addressed; If parents share responsibility, either parent may consent to mental health treatment for the child
  • School-related issues, including where the parents live relative to the child's school
  • How both parents plan to communicate with the child if the child is with the other parent

When reviewing or creating a parenting plan, courts cannot give preference to one parent over the other regarding parenting plans or decision-making. However, courts must order shared responsibility unless there are reasons to support why one parent should not have decision-making authority. Ultimately, courts look to the child's best interests when reviewing parenting plans. So long as plans represent the child's needs, courts are highly likely to approve them.

Florida Parenting Plan Attorney

If you have children, one of the requirements for getting a divorce in Florida is working out a parenting plan with your child(ren)’s other parent. If you are navigating this stressful process, do not tackle this challenge alone. Instead, contact Bacchus Law Firm. Our skilled family law attorneys will answer your questions and set you on a clear path toward achieving the best parenting plan for your situation.

Bacchus Law Firm accepts clients in Palm Beach County, Broward County, Miami-Dade County, Hendry County, or Collier County. Call (954) 500-5555 to set up a consultation with Bacchus Law Firm as soon as possible.

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Can Parenting Plans Be Modified?

Like other states, Florida circuit courts can modify parenting plans if parents agree to the change or when one parent provides evidence of a substantial, material, and unanticipated change of circumstances. In either type of case, a new parenting plan must reflect the child's best interests. When evaluating new parenting plans or arguments for a particular plan, courts will evaluate the plan using the same requirements as initial plans.

Common reasons to modify parenting plans include:

  • Recent knowledge of a parent's substance abuse
  • Parents move out of state or to a further-away town
  • Change in a parent's health or work schedule
  • A change in the child's health or other personal needs.

A parent who requests a parenting plan modification has the burden of proving that the change is significant enough to justify a modification. Parents cannot request modifications because they dislike the current plan or believe it is unfair. The parenting plan must be created to meet the child's needs, and a court will remember this even if the parents do not.

Although requesting a modification from a court is common, parents can mutually choose to adjust the parenting schedule if it works for them. Although mutual agreements may not be court-ordered, court-ordered parenting plans assume that parents will be flexible. For parents who communicate well and get along, minor adjustments are less likely to cause disputes between the parents.

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Mediation For Parenting Plans

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that allows parents to resolve parenting disputes outside a courtroom. A Florida judge can order parents to try mediation before using the courts to resolve their issues. They can use mediation to negotiate the initial plan and modifications of a parenting plan.

Mediation involves a neutral third party who has training in mediation and family law disputes. Mediators help parents address all items a judge needs to review before approving the parenting plan, including shared responsibilities, parenting time schedules, and schooling. A parenting plan must still reflect the best interests of the children. Mediation typically includes at least one three-hour session to address all or as many issues as possible. Parents can agree at the end of the first session whether they want to meet again for a second session or return to the courts.

Mediators know that separating parents might not get along, and some can significantly struggle to communicate in many situations. Often parents have the pre-conceived idea that mediation will not work for them because they argue too much. Indeed, mediation will not be effective for everyone, but many parents are surprised after mediation works for them.

Along with their knowledge of the law, mediation training gives mediators experience and tools to help parents communicate more effectively. Mediators can make suggestions to parents, help them arrive at mutual decisions, and provide potential solutions that parents may not have considered. Because mediators are neutral, parents can have an easier time hearing suggestions from mediators. Other benefits of mediation include:

  • Knowing the Results: When parents present their cases to a judge, they must wait several days to a couple of months before they know the judge's decision. When they mediate, they know the results the moment they agree.
  • Mutual Decisions: Even when parents do not like all the compromises made in mediation, they can feel more empowered knowing they have some control over the decisions. It can be easier to feel optimistic about the future with children when parents make the decisions themselves.
  • Reduced Cost: Mediation is often less expensive than traditional courtroom litigation. There are fewer court filings, court appearances, and no trial preparation costs in mediation. Additionally, parents who mediate often split the cost of mediation, reducing the expense of the mediator.
  • Less Time: Parenting time disputes, especially when part of a larger divorce proceeding, can be lengthy. When parents can successfully mediate, they can be done in a fraction of the time. Even if the overarching divorce is not resolved, parents can either mediate a temporary parenting plan or come to a complete agreement that can be added to the divorce decree.
  • Confidential: Discussions about children can be emotionally charged and stressful, and discussing details in an open courtroom can be unpleasant. Discussions remain confidential with mediation, and details of a mediation session cannot be discussed in court.

Although the court system is available to help parents resolve disputes, family issues tend to be deeply personal, so judges strongly prefer that parents resolve their disputes and develop a parenting plan. As with other states, the Florida court system has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the backlog of cases, judges know that parents can resolve matters more quickly in mediation than they would if they relied on the court system. The court system continues to rely on mediation as an alternative to the courts because it has proven very effective for parents. Parents interested in mediation who do not know where to begin should speak with a family law attorney. The attorney can review the facts, learn about the relationship between the parents, and explain whether and why mediation is the right choice.

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Additional Resources

Florida Mediation Q & A – Florida Courts answer common questions of individuals interested in mediation.

Florida Parenting Plans – The Florida Legislature website provides the laws that parents and courts must follow when writing or approving a parenting plan.

Our Family Wizard – Parents can agree to, or are often ordered to, communicate using Our Family Wizard. This website provides parents with a low-cost platform for communicating, posting school and parenting time schedules, doctor appointments, and anything else related to the children.

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Florida Parenting Plan Lawyer | Broward County, FL

If you are interested in establishing a parenting plan, it is imperative you seek the help of a skilled family law attorney in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Thankfully, Bacchus Law Firm has been helping parents with their child custody and parenting time needs for years.. You can trust that our law firm to help keep the process as easy as possible.

Call Bacchus Law Firm to schedule a free consultation today. Our office is conveniently located at 401 E. Las Olas Blvd. in Ft. Lauderdale, just minutes from Broward County Central Courthouse. We also accept cases in Miami, West Palm Beach, LaBelle, and East Naples, Florida.

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