Florida Parenting Plan, Part 1: Parental Responsibility (Effective 10/1/08)September 15, 2008
Florida divorce law requires Parenting Plans for all divorcing couples with children starting October 1, 2008. Florida law has had a strong public policy about children and divorce for several decades. 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. This articles examines the decision-making section of a parenting plan.
First, 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.
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:
- child care facility
- other long-term medical treatment
- sports and other out-of-school activities
- trips and passports
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 parenting plan include:
- Transportation – How do the gets get between homes? Where is the exchange point? What are the details of transportation between the two homes? Who is driving? What time? If you use the school as the exchange point, what happens when school is not in session?
- Relocation – Under what circumstances will the custodial parent be able to move away with the child? (If you do not decide this now, you will have to follow the procedures of Fla. Statute 61.13001.)
- Education – Who will attend school conferences and how will parents receive notice? How will each parent receive other school information? How will extra school or tutoring fees be divided? Will private school tuition be paid and for how long? Although not required, do you both agree to cover college costs for your child? If so, what is included in “college costs?”
- Religious Affiliation and Training – Is there agreement to raise the children in a specific faith? How will the costs associated with religious affiliation and education be paid? What is the transportation plan? Are you both agreeing that the child will attend certain religious events or education, regardless of whose parenting time is used? Will these decisions be delegated to the parent who feels this area is more important? If so, will that affect the cost sharing in any way?
- Emergencies – What is the time frame for notifying the other parent? What authority does the parent who has the child have to consent to treatment?
- Make-up Time - If one of you is unable to exercise time sharing with the children, under what circumstances will there be make-up time?
- Recreational Activities & Vacations - How will the costs associated with activities be paid? What is the transportation plan? Are you both agreeing that the child will attend certain activities, regardless of whose parenting time is used? Will these decisions be delegated to the parent who feels this area is more important? If so, will that affect the cost sharing in any way? When will vacation plan be made? Will the children have passports? Which of you will hold the passports? How and when will the other parent get the passports if needed for vacation?
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. It 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 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. Starting October 1, 2008, you must describe the decision making process your family will use in your Florida parenting plan.
Source: Pamela S. Wynn, Esq.