Florida divorce law requires a Parenting Plan for all divorcing couples with children since October 1, 2008.
Formerly known as a visitation schedule, a Parenting Plan is required in most new cases that involve children.
Florida law has had a strong public policy about children and divorce for several decades.
The Parenting Plan requirement must be met for all
Florida divorces involving children and custody and visitation cases.
As Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes states:
It is the public policy of this state to assure that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys of childrearing.
Florida law divides parenting issues into three categories: parental responsibility, time sharing, and support.
The law requires divorced parents share parental responsibility for their child after divorce, unless shared responsibility is detrimental to the child.
The goal is to keep both parents involved in the life of the child.
A Florida Parenting Plan is required in all cases involving time-sharing with minor children, even when time-sharing is not in dispute.
Instructions For Form 12.995(a), Parenting Plan
When should Florida parenting plan form be used?
This form or a similar form should be used in the development of a Florida Parenting Plan.
If the case involves supervised time-sharing, the Supervised/Safety Focused FL Parenting Plan, Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.995 (b) or a similar form should be used.
This Florida Parenting Plan form should be typed or printed in black ink.
If an agreement has been reached, both parties must sign the Florida Parenting Plan and have their signatures witnessed by a notary public or deputy clerk.
After completing this Florida Parenting Plan form, you should file the original with the clerk of the circuit court in the county where the petition was filed and keep a copy for your records.
You should then refer to the instructions for your petition, answer, or answer and counterpetition concerning the procedures for setting a hearing or trial (final hearing).
If an agreed Florida Parenting Plan is not filed by the parties, the Court shall establish a Florida Parenting Plan.
The Twelfth Judicial Circuit has an excellent on-line page about FL Parenting Plans. We highly recommend it.
For further information, see chapter 61, Florida Statutes, and the instructions for the petition and/or answer that were filed in this case.
At a minimum, the Florida Parenting Plan must describe in adequate detail:
The best interests of the children is the primary consideration in the Florida Parenting Plan.
In creating the Florida Parenting Plan, all circumstances between the parties, including the parties’ historic relationship, domestic violence, and other factors must be taken into consideration.
Determination of the best interests of the children shall be made by evaluating all of the factors affecting the welfare and interest of the minor children, including, but not limited to:
This standard Florida Parenting Plan form does not include every possible issue that may be relevant to the facts of your case.
The Florida Parenting Plan should be as detailed as possible to address the time-sharing schedule.
Additional provisions should be added to address all of the relevant factors. The parties should give special consideration to the age and needs of each child.
In developing the Florida Parenting Plan, you may wish to consult or review other materials which are available at your local library, law library or through national and state family organizations.
Shared parental responsibility means that both parents discuss and decide major decisions affecting the child.
These are the decisions that have long-term consequences in your child’s life. Some examples involve the choice of:
For an older child it means making decisions about issues like part-time employment, driving, buying a car, dropping out of school, and college education.
As your child gets older, consider having a joint discussion on these issues with your child. Of course, the child should never be responsible for any final decision.
Some additional decision-making areas to consider in your Florida parenting plan include:
Parents may want to divide up the areas, each taking responsibility for certain ones.
Some parents prefer to meet and discuss all issues together and reach a joint decision.
Others may allow one parent to make the decisions and inform the other parent.
There are no set rules for shared decision making, but the new law requires a description of how the parents will share the daily tasks of child upbringing and time sharing with each parent.
The Florida parenting plan must also describe who is responsible for health care, school matters and activities and what communication methods the parents will use to contact the children.
Parents’ post-divorce decision making process is often the same type of process they had during the marriage.
When developing a Florida parenting plan, consider how the decisions have been made in the past and what changes may be needed to that process now that the parents will live apart.
You must describe the decision making process your family will use in your Florida parenting plan.
Florida Best Interest Factors
Florida’s “best interest” of children factors will change on October 1, 2008.
Notice the clear emphasis on demonstrating parenting behaviors and a history of meeting the child’s needs.
Keeping children away from the divorce case is another area that is now clearly spelled out in the law.
Here are the factors:
(a) The demonstrated capacity & disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close & continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the timesharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
(b) The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
(c) The demonstrated capacity & disposition of each parent to determine, consider & act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.
(d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
(e) The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home.
(f) The moral fitness of the parents.
(g) The mental and physical health of the parents.
(h) The home, school, and community record of the child.
(i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the child is of sufficient age.
(j) The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, & disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.
(k) The demonstrated capacity & disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
(l) The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.
(m) Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought.
(n) Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
(o) The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties.
(p) The demonstrated capacity & disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
(q) The demonstrated capacity & disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
(r) The capacity & disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.
(s) The developmental stages & needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.
(t) Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific issue.
These are the factors a judge will use when determining all child-related issues starting October 1, 2008. Now that the law has changed, there will no longer be a “primary residential parent” and Florida parenting plans are now required.
Much more than a visitation schedule, Florida parenting plans
must be comprehensive and cover not only time sharing, but
decision-making and child support.
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