Parents in Florida divorce and paternity cases may anticipate and plan for events reasonably certain to occur in their children’s lives. They may enter into parenting agreements that flexibly adjust provisions when predicted and planned for events take place.
Case Examples of Events Reasonably Certain to Occur
For example, in Rivera v. Purtell, 252 So. 3d 283 (Fla. 5th DCA 2018), parents “could reasonably anticipate the circumstances that would exist” when an event occurred, and the court, “could therefore make a reasoned best interests determination based upon those anticipated circumstances.” See also Stevens v. Stevens, 929 So. 2d 721 (Fla. 5th DCA 2006) (parents planned custody changes based upon an expected date-certain event, namely, circumstances that would exist when the father’s tour of duty ended).
Following the Rivera court’s reasoning, the Second DCA upheld a parenting plan and order for timesharing automatically to change once a child started kindergarten. NB v. RV, Case No. 2D22-195 (Fla. 2d DCA January 18, 2023).
Florida law saying trial judges can’t engage in improper “prospective best interest” determinations doesn’t prohibit:
a timesharing plan which, as here, applies the child’s best interests as determined at the time of the final hearing to an event that is reasonably and objectively certain to occur at an identifiable time in the future.” Id. at 286. The appellate court concluded that starting school “is by definition a reasonably and objectively anticipated change in circumstances that will occur at a time certain” and that “it was entirely proper for the trial court to adjust timesharing as of the time the child starts kindergarten.” Id. at 287. The trial court’s determination to modify timesharing once the child began kindergarten was “based upon the facts before it at the final hearing, and no crystal ball is required.” Id. at 286.NB v. RV, Case No. 2D22-195 (Fla. 2d DCA January 18, 2023) (quoting Rivera v. Purtell, 252 So. 3d 283 (Fla. 5th DCA 2018))
In Johnson v. Johnson, 313 So. 3d 651 (Fla. 4th DCA 2021), the trial court could account in the parenting plan for circumstances reasonably certain to occur: the child’s starting school. Anticipating that event, the court could adjust the school boundary designation (if not in violation of school board policies).
The court gave mom an option. Mom could move back to Palm Beach County with the child and have majority timesharing. If she made that choice, dad would have Thursday overnights and long alternating weekends.
On the other hand, mom could stay in Broward County. If she did, dad would having majority timesharing and she’d get alternating weekends starting Friday afternoon. The appellate court upheld the court’s building these conditions into the parenting plan.
Circumstances Parents Might Determine Are Reasonably Certain to Occur at a Definite Time
Future events the reasonable certainty of which parents may consider will occur at a definite time may include:
- A child’s starting school
- Graduation from grade school, middle school
- Adjusting school boundary designation based on the possibility 1 parent will change residence
- Special needs child needing Individual Education Plans (IEPs), therapies, special needs trust, guardianship, skilled caretaking.
- Engaging with family and friends, including attending playdates, birthday parties, and celebrations
- Participation in extracurricular activities, including athletics and arts in which children appear to show early aptitude
- Taking vacations
- Traveling when of age
- Introduction to future partners and blending families
- Medical care
- Continued mental health counseling
Parents should respect the Court’s ongoing obligation to safeguard children’s interests. If they build in contingencies, they should consider enlisting Court approval when predicted events happen.
Related Blog Posts:
- Collaborative Family Law Agreements A Child’s Prospective Best Interests
- Collaborative Family Law Agreements: Parenting Plan Basics
- A Child’s Future Best Interests and Collaborative Family Law Agreements
- Florida Parenting Plans and Events Reasonably Certain to Occur
- Children’s Best Interests: Parenting Plans Entail Prediction
- Collaborative Parenting Plans: Extraordinary Burden for Modification
- Collaborative Family Law: Florida Favors Settlement Agreements
- Collaborative Parenting Plans: Judges Must Safeguard Children
- Parenting Plan Modification: Enlist Court Review When Events Occur
- Collaborative Parenting Plans: How Will You Resolve Future Impasses?
- Can Contingencies Parents Build into their Parenting Plans Be Modifications?Florida Parenting Plans: Agreeing to a Different Burden for Modification