Writing a Florida joint parenting plan

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Divorcing couples in Florida who have minor children are required by statute to prepare and submit to the court a document called a "joint parenting plan." The plan is generally intended to resolve issues regarding physical custody, visitation and parent relocation. The court has the power to revise or reject the proposed plan. Obviously, preparation of a joint parenting plan is easier if each spouse can put aside any anger or hostility toward the other spouse and concentrate on the interests of the children.

The statute specifies the minimum requirements for a parenting plan. The plan must describe "in detail" how each parent will shoulder the burdens of the daily tasks associated with raising the child (or children). The schedule must specify a time-sharing schedule that will govern the time to be spent by each minor child with the each parent. The plan must also designate which parent will be responsible for providing health care and making decisions relating to health care. The plan must also provide that either parent can consent to mental health care for the child. The plan must specify which parent will be responsible for all school-related activities. Finally, the plan must specify in "adequate detail" the methods and techniques that the parents will use to communicate with the child.

Once submitted, the court has broad latitude to modify the plan. The court must first review the plan for its effect on the overall best interests of the child. Florida has enacted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, and the joint plan must comply with this statute. The court must also order shared custody of the child unless such an arrangement would be detrimental to the child. If shared custody would be detrimental to the child, the court may make such other arrangements as will best serve the child's best interests.

The statute that governs joint parenting plans has other provisions that are too numerous or complex to be summarized in a blog post. Anyone facing a divorce involving minor children may wish to consult an experienced family lawyer for advice on the contents of a joint parenting plan.

Source: Florida Legislature, "§61.13, Support of children; parenting and time-sharing; powers of court," accessed on July 3, 2017

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