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Understanding parenting plans in a divorce case in Florida

Parenting plans are a critical step for every couple in Florida who have minor children and are ending their relationship by divorce or by simply separating. Each couple must prepare a parenting plan that sets out visitation and custody schedules. The plan must be submitted to the court for approval and, if the couple cannot agree on a plan, the court will prepare its own plan.

Parenting plans must, at a minimum, describe the following elements of the parents' new relationship with the children: The manner in which the parents will share and take responsibility for the daily tasks that are necessary for the upbringing of the children; The schedule of visitation arrangements, including regular visitation, vacations and holidays; A designation of which parent will be responsible for health care, school related matters and the address that will be used for school boundary determination and registration; and The methods and schedules by which the parents will communicate with the children.

The plan must primarily address the best interests of the child. All circumstances of the parents' relationship must be described, including their historic relationship and any domestic violence. Each parent must complete Family Law Form 12,995(a), the Florida Parenting Plan. The form approved by the Supreme Court requires information about a number of topics, including the capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a continuing parent-child relationship, the moral fitness of the parents, the anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the divorce, the geographic viability of the plan and many similar factors. The form must also address the ability and willingness of each parent to cooperate in raising the children and in adjusting schedules and visits to accommodate necessary changes.

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