Settling a Parental Responsibility Case in Florida: 2 Steps

In a settlement, parents agree on the issues in their case and go to the court for approval. Experts recommend settling your parental responsibility and time-sharing case whenever possible.

Settling is the fastest and least expensive way to resolve your case, and it gives you more control over the outcomes. Plus, it can be better for children because parents avoid a contentious trial.

Parents can agree on a settlement using informal negotiation, mediation or other alternative resolution methods before or during a case. If parents disagree over anything in a petition or counterpetition, the court sends them to mandatory mediation to encourage settlement.

If parents only agree on some issues, they can submit a partial agreement to the court and go to trial over the other issues.

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Pre-suit settlement

Parents who agree on a settlement before they even open a case can use the pre-suit settlement process. They file their settlement paperwork at the same time that they open a case.

The pre-suit settlement process is a streamlined option for parents who don't need the court to help them compromise or make decisions. It's often used in collaborative law.

If you decide to use a pre-suit settlement, file the paperwork to open your case during Step 1 below.

Steps to settling

Step 1: File forms

The petitioner (whoever opened the case) or their lawyer is responsible for filing settlement forms.

If you're divorcing, file the Marital Settlement Agreement.

Unmarried parents file the Settlement Agreement for Parties Who Were Never Married, unless they have a child support case pending with the Department of Revenue or they don't agree on child support. In either of those circumstances, the parents would file a Final Judgment of Paternity instead.

Unmarried parents must attach a parenting plan, and divorcing parents are encouraged to. You might use a Custody X Change parenting plan, which includes a Custody X Change time-sharing calendar.

Ask your county clerk's office if it requires different forms or additional forms.

Possible: Attend a final hearing

In some counties or cases, the petitioner must schedule and attend a final hearing. The other parent must be notified of the hearing date and can generally choose whether to attend.

Usually, the hearing takes about 10 minutes. The judge reviews the agreement and may ask questions of parents or their lawyers. If the settlement meets all requirements, the judge signs off.

Step 2: Receive the final judgment

Once signed by a judge, a settlement agreement becomes a final judgment, and the case closes. Keep your judgment in a safe place.

In cases that don't require final hearings, a judge approves or denies the settlement within 10 days of submission.

After you've settled

The parental responsibility journey continues after you receive a final judgment. Now your responsibilities include:

To do all of this and more, use Custody X Change.

The online app's customizable calendars, parent-to-parent messaging, expense tracker and parenting plan template will make life after settlement as straightforward as they made settlement itself.

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Explore examples of common schedules


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