Splitting up with your partner while having kids is one of the most challenging and grueling experiences that a person can face. Some partnerships do it beautifully, and can get past the differences that each adult may have with one another, and rather, can turn a broken relationship into a cooperative co-parenting structure that puts their children first. But not all relationships are built equally, and not all personalities can work together past separation to effectively co-parent together.
When couples decide to split, the issues of child rearing become central to the disagreement between the parents. Topics as simple as haircuts, sleepovers, and extracurricular activities can be a warzone between parents who are trying to gain control, or maintain their parenting structure. To consider agreeing on larger issues like timesharing, religious decisions, medical choices, and education, seem like an impossibility.
The Florida Supreme Court has provided Forms 12.995(A-C), that are fill in forms for parents to use in drafting their Parenting Plan for their children. Form A, is the standard form when there is not a safety risk for children. Form B is the form used by parents that have safety concerns based on domestic violence or other dangerous conditions that may require a parent to have supervised visitation or other safety measures for the child. Finally, Form C, is the appropriate form to use when one parent is relocating to an area that will require specialized visitation structures, which is usually more than 150 miles from the child’s home.
At Wood, Atter, & Wolf, P.A., we review the aspects of Parenting Plans with our clients to create a personalized Parenting Plan that meets not only the family’s needs and schedule, but also considers issues that are minefields to avoid litigation in the future. As an experienced Family Law attorney, it is undeniable that decreasing conflict between parents on simple issues will lead to a more trusting environment for parents to reach agreements on bigger issues, and for the child to have a conflict-reduced upbringing.
Issues that are central to the Parenting Plan:
· Parental Responsibility-In the vast majority of cases, shared parental responsibility is required so that both parents have input on major decisions affecting the minor children. These include, educational decisions, medical decisions, religious decisions, and any other topic that is going to shape your child and the world around them.
· Timesharing-Parents should consider how often each parent will have time with the minor children. Factors to consider: parent’s work schedules, children’s schedule, holiday plans and traditions, and summer routines
· Communication-A Parenting Plan not only addresses how parents should discuss child centered issues, but also how frequently the minor children should talk to each parent.
· Extracurricular Activities-this component considers how parents should deal with enrolling a child in a extracurricular, who should take the child to the activity, and how expenses should be split regarding the activity.
· Other matters-each Parenting Plan has provisions about how to change the parenting plan, moving with the minor child, school designations, and notice of travel plans.
Parenting Plans are always modifiable, or they can change over the course of a childhood. Much like children grow and mature, co-parent relationships change, life circumstances evolve, and the needs of the child develop so that over time, a Parenting Plan based on a three year old at the time of separation may not be the appropriate Parenting Plan for a now ten year old child. As an experienced family law attorney, we recommend that parents should always try to work out issues first, and use their Parenting Plan as guidance for when the parties just cannot agree on a topic. Every Parenting Plan has a provision that permits parents to make agreements about their children, even if that changes or modifies a Parenting Plan, so long as both parents agree. We highly suggest that changes to a Parenting Plan are made in writing.
Drafting a Parenting Plan will have long term effects on your child’s life and also yours, so it is essential that you speak with an experienced family law attorney. Understanding your rights and how to make the most of the opportunity to draft your agreement to incorporate your decisions into a clear agreement that will work in the long term will save you frustration, time and money in the long run.