Beginning October 1, 2008, Florida law requires Parenting Plans for parents involved in litigation with minor children. A Parenting Plan must specify how the parents will share and be responsible for the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the child (known as parental responsibility), the time-sharing arrangements that specify the time that the minor child will spend with each parent (known as timesharing schedule), and how much child support must be paid for the benefit of the child.

The Parenting Plan must designate who will be responsible for health care, school-related matters, and other activities. It must also describe the methods that the parents will use to communicate with the child. The Court will order that all decision-making be shared by both parents (known as shared parental responsibility) unless it would be detrimental to the child. If the Court determines that shared decision-making would be detrimental to the child, it may order that one party have sole decision-making authority (known as sole parental responsibility). The Court may also grant one parent ultimate decision-making responsibility over specific aspects of the child’s life, including education, health care, etc. Both parents shall have full access to records and information pertaining to a minor child, such as medical, dental, and school records.

An important aspect of a Parenting Plan is the timesharing schedule that designates how much time each parent will spend with the child. The timesharing schedule will determine how many days and nights each parent will be with the child, how the child will spend the holidays, vacations and school breaks, and how timesharing exchanges will be handled. It is Florida public policy that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of childrearing. There is no presumption for or against the father or mother when creating a timesharing schedule.

Finally, the Parenting Plan must include a provision for child support. Child support must be calculated pursuant to the Florida Child Support Guidelines and the parties are not permitted to deviate from the Guidelines child support amount. In addition to child support, the Parenting Plan must determine how the parents will pay for the children’s medical insurance, medical expenses not covered by insurance, and child care expenses.

Parents involved in litigation with minor children may agree to the terms of the Parenting Plan and Timesharing Schedule, or, if they are unable to reach an agreement, the Court will make the final decision. For the purposes of establishing parental responsibility, a parenting plan and a timesharing schedule, the best interest of the child is the primary consideration and the Court shall determine this by evaluating the following factors contained in Florida Statute 61.13:

(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.


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