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  • By: Mireya Lacayo, Esq.
  • Published: December 9, 2021
Children’s Issues – Parenting Plans

Parenting Plan: What Is A “Parenting Plan?” And Discussing Parental Responsibility

Parenting Plan – Defined

Florida Statute § 61.046(14) defines a “Parenting Plan” to mean a document created to govern the relationship between the parents relating to decisions that must be made regarding the minor child(ren). A Parenting Plan must contain a timesharing schedule for the parents and child(ren).

Does The Judge Or Court Create Our Parenting Plan?

Although the Court must approve of the Parties Parenting Plan, the Court/Judge may not be the creator of the Parenting Plan in its entirety. A Parenting Plan can be developed and agreed to by the Parties either before or at mediation. If a Parenting Plan is agreed upon by the Parties, it is then submitted to the Court for review and approval.

If the Parties are unable to come to an agreement on a Parenting Plan, or if the Proposed Parenting Plan is not approved by the Court, then the Court may establish a Parenting Plan with or without recommendations by the Parties or other professionals, such as a Guardian ad Litem.

What Must Be Included In A Parenting Plan?

Florida Statute § 61.13(2)(b) establishes the minimum elements necessary to create a Parenting Plan that may be approved by the Court. Here are examples of the minimum requirements needed for approval:

  1. Describe how the parents will share and be responsible for daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the minor child(ren).
  2. Designate with specificity the amount of time the minor child(ren) will spend with each parent.
  3. Discuss health care costs and responsibilities. Who will provide health insurance for the minor child(ren)? How will the costs of uncovered medical expenses be split between the parties?
  4. Whose address will be used for the designation of the minor child(ren)’s school?
  5. How will the parties determine whether the minor child(ren) should participate in extracurricular activities? How will the costs of those activities be split?
  6. How will the Parties communicate with the child(ren)?

How Does The Court Determine Parental Responsibility?

First, it is important to note that Florida is neither a Pro-Mother, nor a Pro-Father state. Rather, the State of Florida strongly believes that each minor child of this state shall have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or divorce. The Courts encourage Parents share the rights and responsibilities of raising children.

Based on the above, it makes sense that, per Florida Statute § 61.13(2)(c)(2), the Courts must order Parents retain shared parental responsibility over their child(ren), unless the Court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child(ren).

Shared parental responsibility is defined as a “court-ordered relationship in which both parents retain full parental rights and responsibilities with respect to their child.” When the Court orders shared parental responsibility, both parents should confer with one another to make decisions that would affect the welfare of the child. It is the Court’s desire that shared parental responsibility would allow the Parents to make decisions in the best interest of the child(ren) jointly.

Sole-Parental Responsibility means a court-ordered relationship in which one parent makes decisions regarding the minor child. Sole-parental responsibility does not mean that the parent without parental responsibility will exercise no timesharing. Even with an Order of sole-parental responsibility, the Court may still allow for timesharing between parent and child(ren). Although a Court may make a finding that shared parental responsibility is detrimental to the minor child(ren), the Court may nonetheless find timesharing, supervised or unsupervised, is in the best interests of the minor child(ren).

Ultimate Responsibility, in conjunction with shared parental responsibility, may also be ordered by the Court. A Court may consider the expressed desires of the parents and may grant one party ultimate decision-making authority over one or more specific aspects of a child’s life, such as school or health care decisions.

I Want Sole Parental Responsibility. What Evidence Can I Show The Court To Help Determine That Shared Parental Responsibility Would Be Detrimental To My Child(Ren)?

Evidence that a parent has been convicted of a misdemeanor of the first degree or higher involving domestic violence creates a rebuttable presumption of detriment to the child. However, the Court may advise the convicted parent to provide evidence that would indicate shared parental responsibility would not be detrimental to the child(ren).

Additionally, it is important to note an order of sole parental responsibility does not eliminate the non-custodial parent’s financial obligation.

What Is The Difference Between Sole-Parental Responsibility And Ultimate Decision-Making Responsibility?

Ultimate decision-making responsibility requires parents to first confer with one another to attempt to reach a joint decision. However, at the time that the parties cannot make a joint decision, the parent with ultimate decision-making responsibility has the option to unilaterally decide for the minor child(ren). If a parent is awarded sole parental responsibility, there is no requirement for that parent to confer with the other prior to making a decision that would affect the minor child(ren).

Asking The Court For Sole-Parental Responsibility Or Ultimate Decision-Making Authority

A parent requesting the Court order either sole-parental responsibility or ultimate decision-making authority must specifically plead for said relief either in a pleading or at trial. Additionally, if a parent is requesting ultimate decision-making authority, that parent must designate in their pleadings which, if any, aspects of the child(ren)’s lives that parent wishes to have ultimate decision-making authority for.

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