Agreeing On A Parenting Plan After A Divorce In Florida & The Best Interest Of The Child
One of the most important things for parents to agree on in a divorce is the parenting plan. The parenting plan is a roadmap for how parental responsibility, timesharing, holidays, exchanges of the child or children and other issues will be handled. Sometimes it is very difficult to agree to terms in a parenting plan and a Judge will have to craft a parenting plan for the parents. How does a Judge decide?
Florida law requires the Court to consider the child’s best interest from a list factors you can find in Florida Statute 61.13(3)(a-t). The first few factors are listed below:
(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.
Subsection (a) means that the Court wants to hear that a parent will encourage the child to have a relationship with the other parent and take steps to make that happen. The Court also wants to know that the parents will honor the schedule or order regarding timesharing and the parents are reasonable if changes in the schedule are needed. For example, if a child were sick and could not travel, the parents would think about the child’s needs before their own and adjust the schedule. Subsection (c) is very similar to this, in that the parents act for the best interests of the child rather than themselves when making decisions for the child.
When reviewing Subsection (b), the Court wants to know which parent will be spending the most time with the child. If a child is at daycare 40 hours a week due to one parent’s work schedule, it may be better for the child to be with the other parent during the week because they work from home and can take care of the child daily.
Subsection (d) means that the Court will review where the child has lived the majority of his or her life and who was the primary caretaker and will try to maintain that stability for the child as much as possible. The key to the parenting plan for the child or children is to have minimal disruption in their lives due to the divorce.
Subsection (e) requires the Court to consider at how practical travel for timesharing will be. Geographically, what type of schedule will ensure that the children spend the least amount of time and discomfort traveling? The Court also takes into account where the child’s school is and how far it is from each parent, among other things. If a parent needs to relocate, the parent can do so, but the parenting plan will have to take into account the travel needs of the child or children.
Please look for more analysis of best interest factors to come.
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