The term “custody” is familiar to all of us. However, in 2008 the Florida Legislature removed the term “custody” from the laws of this States and also eliminated all references to one parent being designated as the “primary residential parent”.
Courts now will require that the parents create a “Parenting Plan” and a “Timesharing Schedule”. If the parents cannot agree to the terms of these documents, then the Courts will decide what is in the Parenting Plan and the Timesharing Schedule.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A Parenting Plan is defined in part in Florida Statutes 61.046(14) as a document created to govern the relationship between the parents relating to decisions that must be made regarding the minor child.
What is a Timesharing Schedule?
A Timesharing Schedule is defined in Florida Statutes 61.046(23) as a document which specifies the actual days and times that each parent will spend with their children. It will include all holidays, summer time and a schedule during the school year. The timesharing schedule will also contain provisions regarding who will be responsible for the transportation to effectuate the timesharing (and the costs of such if applicable).
What topics are addressed in a Parenting Plan?
- Parental Decision Making (either Shared Parental Responsibility, Ultimate Parental Responsibility or Sole Parental Responsibility)
- Extracurricular Activities
- Foreign/Out of State Travel
- School Address Designation
- Communication between the parents
- Child Care
- Health Care for the minor children
What are the different types of Parental Decision Making?
Shared Parental Responsibility. This is where both parents are required to confer and make joint decisions regarding important issues affecting the minor child, such as health care and schooling.
Ultimate Parental Responsibility. This is where both parties are required to confer and attempt to make joint decisions; however, if they are unable to agree then one parent shall make the decision. Ultimate Parental Responsibility can be awarded with respect to a particular area of decision making (i.e. Mother has ultimate parental responsibility over schooling and Father has ultimate parental responsibility over health care)
Sole Parental Responsibility. This is where one parent makes all decisions regarding important issues affecting the minor child(ren). In most circumstances the other parent is still entitled to information regarding the child from all school personnel, medical providers, etc.
How does the Judge decide where the children are going to reside?
If the parties cannot agree, then the Judge will establish the parenting plan and the timesharing schedule. All decisions made by the Judge are determined in accordance with the best interests of the minor child. In addition, Florida Statutes 61.13 contains a list of the factors that a Court is to consider when determining the best interests of the child.
The factors are as follows:
(a) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing 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 and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and 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.
(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 court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
(j) The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and 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 and 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. If the court accepts evidence of prior or pending actions regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, the court must specifically acknowledge in writing that such evidence was considered when evaluating the best interests of the child.
(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 and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
(q) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
(r) The capacity and 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 and 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 parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.