When you and your spouse are divorcing in Florida, there are several court forms that must be completed. Form 12.995 is the parenting plan. Unlike the other court forms, the parenting plan needs to be developed and not simply completed. The parenting plan needs to consider many aspects of the children’s lives and all the details need to be carefully thought through. A family law attorney or certified mediator can help you prepare a parenting plan, but you and your spouse as the parents are the best-qualified individuals to develop the plan. Furthermore, it is the parents and, more importantly, the children who ultimately must live with the plan. Please devote the time necessary to develop a plan that will result in happier and well-adjusted children.
This blog is not meant to be a comprehensive guide on how to develop a parenting plan, but rather provides ten basic tips to keep in mind while developing the plan:
- The children’s interests, education, and safety must come first.
- For the plan to be a success, its development must be a joint effort of both the father and mother. Put your emotions aside and consider plan development as a business relationship.
- Well-structured parenting plans take into account each parent’s schedule, coupled with the necessary activities of the children.
- Be realistic when determining how much time you can spend with your children. Do not think about child support payments. It is not fair to the children and under performance of parenting time will create conflicts and may have a negative impact on the children’s emotions and result in disappointment.
- When developing the plan with your spouse, start with the elements not in controversy. If you start with the most contentious element, the entire process will be exhausting.
- The plan can be as detailed as you and your spouse desire. Also, there can be some flexibility built into your plan and this may be desirable if you and your spouse are presently maintaining a somewhat amicable relationship. However, disagreement may arise in the future and both of you may need a written schedule to fall back on if you have a dispute.
- Children acclimate better, particularly at a young age, with a primary home and frequent visits at the other parent’s home. However, also keep in mind that too many visits mean many transitions back and forth for the children and more exchanges for the parents. Older children are more able to adjust to being away from one parent for longer periods of time.
- Consider the amount of time the children must spend in an automobile or other form of transportation when deciding on the frequency of times spent with each parent.
- Consistency from week to week tends to work best, although a two-week or monthly cycle can work fine depending on the circumstances. Regardless of the routine cycle that you and your spouse select, maintain consistency. Generally, the routine cycle should only be trumped by vacations. In turn, vacations and the routine cycle should only be trumped by holidays and special events such as birthdays and graduations. This rule is particularly true if the parents live relatively close to one another.
- Devote the time to performing the research on the details of developing a parenting plan. There is an abundance of information online. Seek advice from professionals and friends who are presently using a parenting plan. It will result in a much friendlier future for you, your ex-spouse, and the children.
Southwest Florida Divorce and Family Mediation Services
Florida Supreme-court Certified Family Mediator