Collaborative Family Law Agreements: Parenting Plan Basics

Man and woman holding hands together with boy and girl looking at green trees. Photo by John-Mark Smith (Unsplash)

What is a Parenting Plan?

A Parenting Plan is “a document created to govern the relationship between parents relating to decisions that must be made regarding the minor child.” Section 61.046(14), Florida Statutes. See CN  v. IGC, Case No. SC20-505 (Florida Supreme Court April 29, 2021)

A court gets its authority to “approve, grant, or modify a parenting plan” from section 61.13(2)(a), Florida Statutes. Section 61.13(2)(b) sets out minimum required contents for all parenting plans. The requirements include “time-sharing schedule arrangements that specify the time that the minor child will spend with each parent.”

A court may approve a parenting plan to which you and the child’s other parent agrees. But the court retains discretion not to approve such a plan. Instead, the court may develop its own plan based on evidence about the best interest of your child. Section 61.046(14)(a), Florida Statutes.

Section 61.13(3) lists nonexhaustive factors a court must consider in discerning your child’s best interests. The court may consider any other factor “relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.”  Section 61.13(3)(t).  

A judge may modify your Parenting Plan. However, according to the statute, the judge can’t do that without a showing of a “substantial change in circumstances” and determination that modification is in the best interest of your child. See section 61.13(3, Florida Statutes and Wade v. Hirschman, 903 So.2d 928 (Fla. 2005). These principles apply in paternity cases. See section 742.031(1), Florida Statutes.

This substantial change test requires a parent seeking modification of custody to show both (1) that circumstances have substantially, materially changed since the original custody determination and (2) that the child’s best interests justify changing custody. Furthermore, the substantial change must be one that was not reasonably contemplated at the time of the original judgment. Read more about this test here.

Does that mean you and the judge who decides your divorce or paternity case can’t anticipate and provide for changes to your parenting plan if things happen that you reasonably do contemplate?

Read More:

Part 1: Collaborative Family Law Agreements and A Child’s Prospective Best Interests 

Part 3: Collaborative Family Law Agreements: Protecting a Child’s Future Best Interests

Part 4: Children’s Best Interests: Parenting Plans and Events Reasonably Certain to Occur

Part 5: Children’s Best Interests: Parenting Plans Entail Prediction

Part 6: Collaborative Parenting Plans: Extraordinary Burden for Modification

Part 7: Collaborative Family Law Agreements: Florida Favors Settlement Agreements

Part 8: Collaborative Parenting Plans: Judges Must Safeguard Children

Part 9: Collaborative Parenting Plans: Anticipating Events Reasonably Certain to Occur

Part 10: Parenting Plan Modification: Enlist Court Review When Predicted Events Occur

Part 11: Collaborative Parenting Plans: How Will You Resolve Future Impasses?

Part 12: Can Contingencies Parents Build into their Parenting Plans Be Modifications?

Part 13: Parenting Plans: Agreeing to a Different Burden for Modification

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