Florida Parenting Plan and Agreement Guidelines

The laws about Florida parenting plans are found in Chapter 61 of Title VI in the Florida Statues.

Here are some guidelines from the law to help you make your parenting plan.

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Florida terminology

Your parenting plan is the written document that states how you and the other parent will continue to care for your child after you divorce.

The terms parental responsibility and time-sharing are used in the parenting plan instead of custody and visitation.

Parental responsibility refers to the authority parents have to make decisions about the child's education, discipline, religious upbringing, health care, and other matters. You can have shared or sole parental responsibility.

Shared parental responsibility is when both parents make decisions for and about the child. Parents can divide responsibilities or one parent can have responsibility over specific areas. The court prefers shared parental responsibility and orders it unless it is not in the best interest of the child.

Sole parental responsibility is when one parent has the right to make all decisions without consulting the other parent. You can have sole parental responsibility with or without time-sharing with the other parent. The court will order sole parental responsibility only if it is best for the child.

Time-sharing refers to when each parent spends time with the child.

Required information in your parenting plan

Florida requires parents to make a parenting plan in all divorce cases when the parents have minor children.

Your parenting plan must include:

  • A written description and provisions about how you and the other parent will share the responsibility for the daily tasks of raising your child
  • A time-sharing schedule that shows the time your child will spend with each parent
  • Who will be responsible for health care
  • Who will be responsible for school and extracurricular activities, including which address will be used for school-boundary determination and registration
  • The methods and technologies each parent will use to communicate with the child

The public policy of Florida is that each child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after separation and to encourage parents to share the rights, responsibilities, and joys of child rearing. Your parenting plan should reflect this policy.

The parenting coordination program

Parenting coordination is a program to help parents resolve conflicts about their parenting plan.

If you and the other parent can't reach an agreement about your plan, the court will appoint a parenting coordinator to provide help, education, and mediation. You can prepare to meet with the parenting coordinator the same way you prepare for mediation.

You and the other parent must pay a retainer fee and an hourly rate for the work done by the coordinator. The court can decide whether one or both parents are responsible for the cost. Usually both parents are required to pay, but sometimes if one parent is uncooperative, that parent will be ordered to pay.

If you can't afford the coordinator fees, the court won't order you to participate in parenting coordination unless public funds are used to pay the fees.

If you and the other parent are not able to reach an agreement with the help of the parenting coordinator, the court will make your parenting plan. The court will take the recommendation of the parenting coordinator into consideration when creating the plan.

Process to make your plan a court order

A parenting plan becomes a court order when both parents and a judge sign it and it is filed with the court.

The court encourages parents to negotiate a plan they both support. When parents agree on the plan, they can submit it to the court and the judge will accept it.

If parents are not able to agree on a plan, the court will establish the plan and make it the court order.

Factors that affect the best interest of your child

The court will only accept a parenting plan that is in the best interest of the child.

The court considers the following when deciding what is best for the child:

  • Each parent's ability to encourage a close parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable about making changes
  • How the parents plan to divide parental responsibilities
  • How parents divided parental responsibilities before the divorce
  • Each parent's ability to determine and act upon the needs of the child
  • How long the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment
  • The distance between the parents' homes and the travel times for the child
  • The developmental stages and needs of the child
  • The moral fitness of the parents
  • The mental and physical health of the parents
  • The home, school, and community record of the child
  • The reasonable preference of a mature child
  • How informed each parent is about the child's life and daily routine
  • Each parent's ability to provide a consistent routine for the child
  • Each parent's ability to communicate with the other parent
  • Each parent's willingness to have a unified front on major issues with the child
  • Each parent's ability to be involved in the child's school and extracurricular activities
  • Each parent's ability to maintain an environment free from substance abuse
  • Each parent's ability to protect the child from the court case, including not sharing information about the case and not speaking negatively about the other parent
  • Evidence of child abuse, domestic violence, sexual violence, child abandonment, or child neglect from either parent
  • Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding child abuse, domestic violence, etc

The court has no preference for or against the father or mother of the child when making a parenting plan or time-sharing schedule.

Required parenting class

Parents with minor children who divorce are required to attend the Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course. This course is usually 4 hours and is offered by the state.

The class covers topics like the legal aspects of deciding child-related issues between parents, the emotional aspects of separation and divorce on adults, the emotional aspects of separation and divorce on children, etc.

The class should help you make a parenting plan in the best interest of your child.

Additional help

Parenting plan form for the state

Parenting plan guidelines for Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy, and Union counties

Parenting plan guidelines for Brevard and Seminole counties

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