When a married couple with children divorces, parenting agreements become one of the most critical issues. Determining who has responsibility for the children and what that arrangement looks like can be incredibly complex. In Florida, specific guidelines must be followed when creating parenting agreements to ensure that the children's best interests are always taken into account.
The Virga Law Firm, P.A. can help explain what goes into making these critical decisions in our state and how you can be sure that your children's needs are always put first.
Terms You Should Know
Each state has a different approach and terminology regarding child custody. To better understand Florida's guidelines, The Virga Law Firm, P.A. will break down the essential terms.
Is it Custody or Parental Responsibility?
In Florida law, custody is referred to as "parental responsibility." This means that when parents divorce or separate, they must still make decisions together about their children's upbringing. Responsibility is often shared equally between both parents, or it can be given to one parent only. In some situations, it is possible for one parent to have primary responsibility while the other has limited responsibility.
Is it Visitation or Time-Sharing?
In Florida, visitation is referred to as "time-sharing." This legal system utilizes this term when referring to how much time each parent will spend with the child. A timesharing schedule will outline when the child will be with each parent and where the handoffs will occur. Schedules can be simple or as complicated as necessary, depending on the needs of the child and the parents.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is a document that outlines both the parental responsibility arrangement and the timesharing schedule. This document is created by the parents and must go through a judge's approval to become legally binding. Parenting plans can be modified as needed, but a judge must also approve any changes.
What is the Best Interests of the Child Standard?
The best interests of the child standard is a guideline that judges use to make custody and timesharing decisions. This guideline considers many factors, such as the child's age, the child's relationship with each parent, each parent's work schedule, and each parent's ability to provide for the child's needs.
Drafting Parental Responsibility and Timesharing Plans
Now that there is a base understanding of the essential terms involved in creating these agreements, it is crucial to understand what exactly goes into these plans.
What Exactly Goes Into The Parenting Plan?
When creating the parenting plan, parents must include a few key components to make it legally binding.
A parental responsibility plan outlining who will have responsibility for the child and how those responsibilities will be divided between the parents.
A timesharing schedule that outlines when the child will be with each parent and where the handoffs will occur.
A holiday schedule that outlines which holidays the child will spend with each parent.
A guide stating how decisions about the child will be made, such as medical, educational, and extracurricular activity decisions.
A plan for how the parenting plan will be modified in the future, such as if one parent moves out of state or gets a new job.
A provision for how disputes between the parents will be resolved.
It is important to note that these are just the basics of what goes into a parenting plan. Other provisions may need to be included, depending on the specific situation.
Creating a custody arrangement and timesharing schedule can be complex, especially if the parents cannot agree on what is best for the child. However, it is important to remember that the ultimate goal is to create a plan that is in the child's best interests.
What Other Factors are Considered?
Many factors regarding the child's best interests go into making these decisions. These include but are not limited to:
The mental and physical health of each parent.
The ability of each parent to provide for the child's needs.
The relationship between the child and each parent.
The stability of each home environment.
Each parent's work schedule.
The age and developmental needs of the child.
Any special needs that the child may have.
The distance between the homes of the parents.
The ability of each parent to encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent.
These are just some factors a judge may consider when making parental responsibility and timesharing decisions. It is important to remember that no two custody arrangements are alike, as each family has unique needs and circumstances.
What if Parents Can Agree?
Sometimes parents are capable of reaching an agreement themselves. They can submit their plans to the court for approval in these cases. If the judge believes that the plan is in the child's best interests, they will approve it and become legally binding.
What if Parents Can't Agree?
If the parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement, they may choose to go through mediation. In mediation, a neutral third party can often help the parents agree. If mediation is unsuccessful, the parents must go to court and let a judge make the decisions for them.
Finding the Right Team For You
When navigating parental responsibility issues in Flordia, you may not know where to turn next. The team at The Virga Law Firm, P.A. has the experience necessary to help you through this process and create a plan that you feel confident in.
Do you have questions regarding parental responsibility in Florida? Contact the team at The Virga Law Firm, P.A. at (800) 822-5170.