From Custody Battle to Parenting Plan

- Gary E. Williams

For years, child custody arrangements tended to look at the rights of a non-custodial parent as visitation — as if the entire role of that parent was to drop in and visit, like a friendly neighbor or a cousin from out of town. Today, however, courts recognize that both parents have not only a right, but an obligation to play an active parental role, and the courts want the role of each parent to be clearly defined up front.

To that end, the Florida courts require divorcing parents to submit a detailed Parenting Plan document. A standard Parenting Plan form developed by the state Supreme Court is provided by the circuit court for each county. However, the 12th Judicial Circuit Court has gone a step further and developed an assessment tool to help parents understand their family situation and then choose from five suggested plan outlines:

  • Long Distance Parenting Plan — for parents who live more than 50 miles apart.
  • Safety Focused Parenting Plan — when one parent has a history of violent behavior.
  • Highly Structured Parenting Plan — when conflict between the parents is particularly challenging.
  • Basic Parenting Plan — for most other family situations.
  • Supreme Court Approved Parenting Plan — the standard statewide form.

Although your divorce proceeding may not occur in the 12th Judicial Circuit, the assessment tool and detailed forms may help you address considerations you might not think of on your own:

  • Decision-making and responsibilities for academic, medical, religious, disciplinary, and other matters
  • Time-Sharing Arrangements (weekly, holiday, academic breaks, birthdays and other significant days)
  • How and when parents and children will communicate (telephone, email, etc.), and rules for children’s computer and Internet usage
  • Third-party child care arrangements
  • Conflict resolution
  • Transportation of children and their belongings between homes
  • Typical parenting issues involving everything from driving privileges to body piercings.

Comprehensive as the plans are, of course, the courts could not think of everything. It is up to the parents to devote all the time and attention they can to creating a plan that is best for their own children.

If you have questions about Parenting Plans and how they will affect you, consult with a Family Law Attorney, here in Clearwater, Florida, to discuss how Parenting Plans are now being used. Contact us at (727) 531-8737.