Divorcing parents often worry about how their children will acclimate to changing family dynamics. Shared custody, or equal time-sharing, enables the kids to see both parents on a schedule that splits their time between the two. However, divvying up the responsibilities is not always easy, especially if the breakup is contentious.
In Florida, a parenting plan is a requirement in all cases involving time-sharing and minor children. A parenting plan spells out how both parents will work together for the sake of their children, with the best interests of the children being the primary consideration of everything in the plan. Here are some tips to help you create an initial parenting plan.
Understand what must be included
According to §61.13, Florida Statutes, a parenting plan must include the following items at a minimum:
- A detailed description of how both parents will share in and be responsible for their children’s daily tasks.
- Time-sharing arrangements detailing the logistics of when the children will spend time with each parent.
- Allocating responsibilities for health care forms, all matters relating to schooling and other activities.
- A detailed description of how both parents will work to effectively communicate with the children.
The parenting plan must be created and agreed to by both parents and is required by the court even in cases where time-sharing is not disputed. If both parents cannot agree to a parenting plan, then the court will establish a plan.
Consider the logistics
If you want the time your children spend with each of you split evenly, transportation logistics is critical, especially if they are in school. If you do not live near each other, it may not be realistic. Getting them to and from school, delivering them to the other parent’s home and other exchanges can make splitting the time a logistical nightmare. Childcare arrangements are also factors. Minimizing the number of changes your kids experience at once can make the transition easier.
Make allowances for activities
Children with after-school and extracurricular activities have a structure already in place. Consider this when planning the time-sharing schedule. Many school events take place on-site, but pursuits such as sports, music and other groups may meet elsewhere. The parenting plan should work with each child’s schedule, keeping disruptions to a minimum.
Ask the kids
While it may be impractical to involve small children, if your kids are older, you may want to consider asking them if they have preferences. This can help them feel involved in the changes taking place in their life. During these discussions, what you learn about the children’s perspective may surprise you. It can also alleviate some of the stress for everyone when the kids are on board with the new schedule.
Creating a parenting plan may seem daunting at first. Working out a schedule that works for both parties can help strengthen your new family dynamic going forward, as well as provide a healthy example for your children down the road.