Florida law requires Parenting Plans for all divorcing couples with children starting October 1, 2008. Florida law has a strong public policy to keep both parents in frequent and continuing contact with their children after divorce. In Florida law, parenting issues are divided into three categories: parental responsibility, time sharing and support. This article examines the time sharing section of a parenting plan.
The time sharing section of your parenting plan spells out when the children will be with each parent. Many Florida courts currently have “model schedules" for visitation. You can also check the websites of the larger urban areas near you for their models. For example, Miami, Tampa and West Palm Beach all have model schedules, but Orange County and Broward County do not.
You will want to read the model schedule for your area for two reasons. First, you will see what a partial parenting plan looks and sounds like. Second, you may decide that the model schedule in your area is appropriate for your family. If so, the timesharing part of your parenting plan is done when you attach a copy of the model to your plan and make reference to it.
If the model schedule for your area is not appropriate for your family, you may decide that the model plan can be re-worked for your family. You may also want to do an online search and look at some time sharing schedules from other areas of the country. Just be sure to include all the plan sections that Florida requires.
As for time sharing with your children, think about how these items should work for your family:
Transitions - Pick up and Drop Off - Which of you is driving? If you use school as the transition point, what happens when school is not in session?
Holidays and Special Occasions - Will these days be treated differently than the usual time sharing and have a separate schedule? Are school holidays that are not public holidays included in this part? How will both parents receive notice of special school events?
Transfer of Belongings - Will toys, clothes, backpacks and other property of the children transfer between homes (if so, how and when) or will both parents have these items? What happens if a needed item is not transferred?
Right of First Refusal - If the other parent cannot personally attend to the children in that parent's designated time sharing period (due to illness, travel, etc), does the other parent have the right of first refusal? How long a period must it be before the right of first refusal applies - overnight, four hours, 24 hours?
Notice of Whereabouts - When does information have to be provided to the other parent if the children will not be at the usual location? When and how will the other parent be notified? This could include leaving the county, being out-of-county overnight, leaving the state, etc.
When developing your parenting plan, it is often helpful to see the proposed schedule on a calendar. There are many different software programs for dividing parenting time. One of the least expensive programs provides excellent color-coded calendars that let you see what various schedules looks like. So, for example, if the parents designate birthdays as a special occasion days in the parenting plan and everyone's birthday is in May or June, you can see how that looks when combined with Memorial Day, Mother's Day and Father's Day. And, depending on your rotation schedule, holidays may not need to be designated separately when you see your regular schedule on the calendar.
So start with a model schedule to see if it meets your family's needs. If it does not, can it be re-worked to meet them? Is there another model schedule (or re-work of one) that meets the needs of your family? If not, you will need to write down the details of how and when each parent will spend time with the children for your Florida parenting plan.
For more information about Florida family law and to learn about a free Tele-Test Drive Basic Florida Law course, go to http://www.diydivorcefl.com
Pamela S. Wynn is a Florida family attorney with more than 23 years experience in Florida courts.