Negotiating a Parenting Plan
Parents seeking divorce have a large task in front of them, as they consider, negotiate, and settle on the terms that will govern child custody. Divorce is particularly hard for children, and trying to find the right balance that addresses the desires of both parents to have an active role in the child’s life against the child’s need for predictability, stability, and consistency is hard. In Florida, these agreements are called parenting plans, which cover how the parents will divide parenting time and decision-making authority. When parents have similar philosophies on childrearing and parenting responsibilities, the negotiation process will be easier, but if approaches diverge, discussions can quickly devolve into verbal altercations that only serve to further expand the divide between the couple. Courts can formulate parenting plans, if necessary, but parents are much better off if they can work this issue out individually, even if it means bringing in a third party to mediate or oversee settlement discussions. Keeping in mind some key strategies and considerations when participating in child custody negotiations can greatly increase the chances of forming a solid agreement, and some of these factors will be explored below.
Concepts to Keep in Mind
When parents get to the point of negotiating child custody, hurt feelings and animosity usually exist. These emotions can quickly become a hindrance to any sort of agreement, and prevent the parents from having meaningful discussions about how to care for the child going forward. Thus, the first thing to keep in mind is that why the relationship did not work no longer matters, at least as far as negotiating child custody, and focusing on keeping an objective perspective is vital to having productive conversations. Further, the needs of the child must come first, and fighting to keep a child from a parent will cause irreparable harm. Parents must put aside any desire to completely avoid contact with one another, and recognize how the child needs both parents to get through this experience and to generally develop as a person. The only exceptions would be in cases of abuse, drug addiction, or other dangerous behavior. Finally, each parent needs to give serious thought to the rules they propose related to communication and childrearing. Limiting communication between parents will only cause problems later, particularly if a child tries to manipulate this fact. Also, childrearing needs to be a team effort, and attempts to separate out how to handle specific issues will only lead to conflict in the future.
What You Need to Decide
Parenting plans must include certain information before a court will approve the terms. However, additional terms can and should be included, such as how to handle disputes, changes in circumstances, and moves. At a minimum, parenting plans must:
- Address how the parents will provide for the child’s daily needs;
- Establish a time-sharing schedule;
- Indicate who will decide healthcare, education, and other activities; and
- Describe the methods each parent may use to communicate with the child.
Courts will expect to see some arrangement that facilitates continuing contact with both parents, and promotes the child’s best interests. Thus, terms that reflect a clearly defined consistent routine for the child and establish a reasonable division of parenting responsibilities will need to appear, as will indications the parents understand and will put forth the effort to work together for the sake of the child. Ultimately, the content of a parenting plan should put the child first, with the parents striving to provide this support to best of their ability. An experienced family law attorney can help parents devise a parenting that will gain court approval and reduce the likelihood of future conflict that will require litigation to resolve.
Talk to a Florida Family Law Attorney
Child custody matters automatically spark strong responses in parents, which can hinder reasonable resolution of the issue. A family law attorney can help navigate these situations, and provide guidance on what the law requires and how a judge is likely to decide a dispute if litigation is filed. All Family Law Group, P.A. is here to provide any assistance you need with child custody, or any other family law matter. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-672-1900 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
by Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+