Were you under the impression that Florida still refers to agreements involving children as “Custody Agreements”? Or the time in which each parent spends with a child or children as “visitation”?
Although some states still use this language in their laws governing children, in 2008, the Florida legislature eliminated reference to “custody” or a “custody agreement” and replaced it with “parenting plan”, while references to “visitation” were replaced with “time-sharing.”
As a result, an agreement that covers each parent’s relationship with his or her minor child(ren) and the relationship between each parent with regard to his or her minor child(ren) including parental responsibility, schedules of time each parent spends with a child or children (i.e. a time-sharing schedule), and all other matters affecting the parents’ responsibility and duties pertaining to children is now referred to as a Parenting Plan in Florida.
The primary consideration in creating, developing, approving or modifying a parenting plan, is the best interest of the child/children. Factors you should know and become acquainted with, if you and your spouse cannot agree to specific terms and provisions of a Parenting Plan, are those that a Court will evaluate in order to determine the best interest of a child/children. The Florida Statute 61.13(3) outlines them as such:
“(a) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
(b) The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
(c) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.
(d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
(e) The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child.
(f) The moral fitness of the parents.
(g) The mental and physical health of the parents.
(h) The home, school, and community record of the child.
(i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
(j) The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.
(k) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
(l) The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.
(m) Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought. If the court accepts evidence of prior or pending actions regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, the court must specifically acknowledge in writing that such evidence was considered when evaluating the best interests of the child.
(n) Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
(o) The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties.
(p) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
(q) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
(r) The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.
(s) The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.
(t) Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.”
**See Florida Statute 61.13(3)
It is always preferred that parents get together in a reasonable and amicable fashion to resolve their differences in a divorce as it relates to resolving Parenting Plan and time-sharing issues.
There is a tremendous benefit to children who see their parents able to reasonably communicate and act civil to one another during the dissolution of their marriage.
As a result, spouses in Florida who are divorcing and have children will be required to attend a Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course per Florida Statute 61.21. This 4 hour course was established by the Florida legislature as it was recognized that “[a] large number of children experience the separation or divorce of their parents each year and that parental conflict related to divorce is a societal concern because children suffer potential short-term and long-term detrimental economic, emotional, and educational effects during this difficult period of family transition” and “[t]his is particularly true when parents engage in lengthy legal conflict”.
As a parent, when engaged in a divorce process, be it the traditional litigation or collaborative divorce process route, place your child/children’s needs first. Do not involve them in the facts pertaining to the divorce or circumstances relating to the demise of your marital relationship. The destruction of a marriage should not mean the destruction of your child/children. By ensuring your children are not entwined with your differences with or resentments toward the other parent, you are ensuring their health and stability, from a mental, physical and emotional perspective.
Stay tuned to the KLK Family Law Blog for more insight on how to create a more positive environment for children during the divorce process.
You may also be interested in: How Does Divorce Affect Children in 2019?
Kim L. Kaszuba, Esq.