June 04, 2009 /24-7PressRelease/
-- Timeshare Parenting Plans
Article provided by Gary E. Williams, P.A. Please visit our Web site at www.garywms.com
2008 Changes to Florida's Child Custody Laws
On October 1, 2008, Florida's new child custody laws went into effect. The state removed the terms "primary residential parent," "secondary residential parent," "custodial" and "non-custodial parent" from the laws and replaced them simply with the words "parent," "mother" and "father." The legislature made these changes because it believed the previous language minimized the role of the non-custodial parent in the child's life.
Under the new laws, parents are required to develop a comprehensive parenting plan that discusses how each parent will be responsible for day-to-day decisions in the child's life, as well as the more major decisions, such as education and religion. The parenting plan also must come up with a detailed time-sharing schedule, showing which days and which times each parent shall have with the child, including holidays, school breaks and birthdays.
Developing a Sound Parenting Plan
There is no one-size-fits-all parenting plan. Each plan must be developed according to the particular family's situation. At a minimum, the parenting plan must contain the following provisions:
• Who will have the child at what specific times during each day of the week, weekends and nights?
• How will each holiday, birthday and school break, including summer vacation, be divided?
• What will happen if a parent misses a scheduled day -- can the time be rescheduled?
• What type of notice is necessary to make changes in the time-sharing schedule? Is oral notice sufficient, or must it be in writing?
Unless otherwise stipulated, the parents will share the decision-making authority for the day-to-day decisions in the child's life, including emergency medical situations. But how will major decisions about the child's life be made? Will the parents also share this responsibility or will one parent be in charge of making the major decisions in the child's life, including:
• Religious instruction
• Non-emergency health care issues
• Extra-curricular activities
The parents also must determine how financial responsibility will be divided. Who will pay for the child's health insurance? Who will pay for the educational and extra-curricular activity expenses? Who will cover transportation costs? Child care expenses? Communication costs? This also may be handled in the child support agreement and referenced in the parenting plan.
The parenting plan also must discuss when and how each parent may contact the child when the child is with the other parent. For example, is the child only allowed to receive telephone calls before 7 pm at night? Can the parent contact the child via email only during certain times of the day?
Other items that may be included in the parenting plan include:
• Exchanging the child: is there a set place and/or time or other conditions for exchanging the child between parents?
• Dispute resolution: if there is a disagreement over the parenting plan, do the parents want to require mediation before resorting to court action?
• Moving: do the parents want to require written consent and/or a court order before one of the parents can move out-of-state with the children?
• Out-of-state and foreign travel: is special permission required for the children to travel out-of-state or to another country with one parent?
• Parental communications: are there any special restrictions on how the parents may communicate with one another?
Parents have the ability to include any special requirements they want in the parenting plan, so long as both parties agree to the requirements and they are in the best interests of the child.
Safety-Focused Parenting Plans
In cases where there was domestic violence in the home or allegations of sexual abuse, threats or other types of violence, the aggressor parent may not be granted time with the child or their time may be subject to special conditions, like supervised visits or no overnight stays. Safety-focused parenting plans also may be necessary if one of the parent's has mental health issues, has been suicidal or has an arrest record. A family law attorney can help parents concerned about their child's safety develop a parenting plan with all necessary precautions, or can help the parent petition the court to deny custody rights.
Court Approval Required for Parenting Plans
The court must approve of the parenting plan submitted by the parents before it will become effective. When the judge reviews the parenting plan, the judge's primary concern is whether the plan meets the best interest of any children involved. While the court is free to consider any and all factors that may impact the child's welfare, some of the factors they may consider include:
• Have the parents demonstrated a willingness to honor the time-sharing schedule and act reasonably when changes need to be made?
• Will one or both of the parents delegate their parental responsibilities to others, like grandparents?
• Have the parents shown a capacity to act in the best interests of the child rather than in their own needs?
• How close to the parents live to each other and how much time will the child spend being shuttled between the two?
• Are the parents fit to be parents, morally, physically, health-wise?
• Does the child have a preference for one parent?
• Can the parent provide a consistent routine for the child?
• Have the parents been willing to communicate with one another and keep each other informed about issues regarding the child?
The court also will consider any allegations of domestic abuse, substance abuse or other threats to the child's safety in determining the custody arrangement, including any false allegations that may have been made by one parent against the other.
Once the court approves of the plan, one parent cannot unilaterally make changes to the plan without the other parent's consent. If the parents disagree on changing the plan, then they must go to court to seek a modification of the agreement.
Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney
A lawyer experienced in family law can be an invaluable resource to help you develop a sound and comprehensive parenting plan. The attorney can help you make sure you have met all of Florida's legal requirements as well as considered every factor necessary to make your parenting plan a success.
Article provided by Gary E. Williams, P.A. Please visit our Web site at www.garywms.com---
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