The Divorce Process: Developing a Parenting Plan
Divorcing When You Share Children
In Florida, shared parental responsibility is presumed. This means that the courts assume that both parents will be actively involved in their children's lives, including their education, religious upbringing, and health. Consequently, most parents will have some form of shared custody and visitation. Courts will rarely grant sole parental custody to one parent, except in extreme cases where one parent is deemed unfit. However, knowing what shared custody looks like post-divorce can be challenging as it will differ for every family.
Many divorcing parents worry about maintaining their close relationship with their children, especially if they will not be living with their children full-time. This is where your parenting plan comes in. All divorcing parents must develop and submit a parenting plan as part of their divorce process.
What Is the Parenting Plan?
Your parenting plan is a legally binding document that you and your co-parent develop (sometimes with the court's help), outlining important childcare provisions, including a visitation and time-sharing schedule, educational responsibilities, medical care guidelines, and religious upbringing plans. In short, the parenting plan outlines how your children will be raised post-divorce.
In most cases, the parents will work together to come to an agreement on custody and visitation. In these cases, once the plan is agreed to, you will file it with the courts. Typically, when both parents agree to the proposed plans, the courts will approve them without further intervention. However, if there are any major problems with the proposed plan, the courts may intervene.
If you and your co-parent absolutely cannot agree to a parenting plan, the courts will decide for you. Therefore, if you want to retain as much control as possible, it is recommended that you do your best to work with your co-parent when developing your parenting plan.
Why You Need An Attorney
When developing your parenting plan, your greatest resource is your attorney. In addition to helping you deal with the complicated legal processes surrounding divorce, your lawyer has a wealth of information about how parenting plans are developed. For example, at Beaulieu-Fawcett Law Group, P.A., we have helped hundreds of Florida families develop parenting plans that work for them. We can use our experience to help you and your family, too.
Other resources that may be able to help you as you develop your parenting plan include:
- Therapists and family counselors
- Medical professionals
- School counselors
- Financial planners
How Do You Write a Parenting Plan?
Writing your parenting plan is one of the most difficult parts of your divorce. Not only is the parenting plan itself incredibly important, but when drafting your plan, you are forced to work closely with your co-parent. While you may come to develop a strong co-parenting relationship, working together with your co-parent can be challenging in the early days of your separation and divorce. This is especially true in cases where differing opinions on how to raise your children contributed to your decision to divorce.
Below we have some tips for what to consider including in your parenting plan, including provisions that are often overlooked but which you may find helpful.
Things to Consider Including in Your Parenting Plan
One of the primary functions of your parenting plan is to outline your visitation or time-sharing schedule. You should include a full calendar or plan for how you and your co-parent will share parenting time, including your day-to-day schedule, a holiday sharing plan, and what you will do during school breaks.
Another important matter that should be included in your parenting plan is an outline of how and when you and your co-parent will communicate with your children when they are not with you. This can be especially helpful if your children are very young and do not have access to their own phone or email account. For example, some families set up a bedtime call between their children and the other parent, ensuring that the children feel connected to their other parent even when they aren't with them.
You should also consider including provisions regarding how you and your co-parent will resolve disputes. While you can plan for many child-rearing concerns, it is impossible to predict every issue. Having a plan for how you and your co-parent will navigate disagreements can help keep your co-parenting relationship stable.
Finally, you should include provisions regarding emergencies, such as the need for emergency medical care. Emergency situations can be overwhelming, and having a plan for handling them and how you will notify your co-parent can provide you some stability during these difficult moments. For example, suppose your child takes equestrian lessons, falls off their horse, and sprains their wrist. Where will you take them, and how/when will you notify your co-parent of the injury? No one likes to think of their child being injured, but when an accident happens, having a plan in place can be a tremendous help.
Commonly Overlooked Parenting Plan Provisions
While there are some parenting plan standards that every family will include, such as who takes the kids to and from school, many issues are often overlooked. Because your parenting plan will serve you for years to come, it must be as detailed as possible.
Common issues that are frequently left out of parenting plans include:
- Whether parents can take the children out-of-state or out of the country on vacation
- What parents should do when the child needs non-emergency medical attention
- What will happen if one parent is sick and cannot take the children on their scheduled days
- Does the other parent need to be consulted before a child has their hair cut
- Agreements surrounding parental behavior, including agreements to no badmouthing
It is also worth including provisions for how large expenses will be handled, especially those not covered by child support, such as private school tuition and costs associated with an extracurricular activity. Relatedly, if you and your co-parent plan to help your child financially when they go to college, it is worth including those plans in your parenting plan as well.
If you are going through a divorce a need help developing a parenting plan, reach out to Beaulieu-Fawcett Law Group, P.A. for a consultation. As a law firm, we are committed to helping our clients through every aspect of their divorce, including child custody matters.
Click here for tips on developing a healthy co-parenting relationship.