Parenting plans, or custody arrangements, are required during all Florida divorces, and anytime two adults co-parent a minor child. Parenting plans are written documents that outline how children will spend time with each parent in various situations, such as weekly and monthly visits, holidays, vacations, and school breaks. The goal is for both parents to work together to develop a plan that works for them. However, this process is rarely as straightforward as it seems. Parents often disagree on custody arrangements, leading to expensive court battles and lengthy divorce proceedings. Here’s how custody disputes are handled during a high-conflict divorce in Florida.
Parenting Plan Process
You and your ex-spouse are responsible for creating a parenting plan during divorce proceedings. Once an agreement is made, you both sign the plan and submit it to the court for approval. In the meantime, the court could order a temporary custody arrangement until the divorce is completed. Divorces involving minor children cannot be finalized without an approved parenting plan, so it’s imperative that you and your ex work together to reach an agreement. When you don’t agree, other steps are taken to encourage the creation of a plan where both parents agree.
Mediation is necessary if you and your ex-spouse cannot agree on a custody arrangement through regular negotiations. You may be ordered to attend mediation sessions by the family court, or you can request them. Mediation sessions are formal meetings between you, your ex-spouse, your attorneys, and a third-party, court-approved mediator. During the session, you work together to resolve issues that arose during negotiations to create a suitable parenting plan with your desires and the children’s best interests in mind. One benefit of mediation is that it’s less expensive than formal court proceedings. Mediation also gives you more control over the final custody arrangement.
You may need to attend several mediation sessions before an agreement is made. If you cannot reach an agreement after several mediation sessions, you will need to bring the parenting plan to the court.
Litigation is the formal process of bringing a disagreement to court. In the case of custody arrangements during a divorce, litigation is necessary if negotiation and mediation sessions haven’t worked. When you bring a custody arrangement to the family court, the judge is the ultimate decision maker on the custody arrangement. The judge will mandate a parenting plan you and your ex must follow. The judge will consider various factors when deciding on the most suitable custody arrangement, acting in the children’s best interests. These factors include:
The judge considers parental responsibility as one of the primary contributing factors when enacting a parenting plan. Examples include:
- A parent’s willingness to adhere to the potential parenting plan.
- Their overall ability to meet a child’s needs.
- Their desire to maintain routines like school schedules and extracurricular activities.
Any evidence of neglect or drug and alcohol abuse is also considered.
How the proposed parenting plan will impact the child’s stability is also considered. The judge will evaluate the length of time the child has spent at their current residence, their current school, and their involvement in community activities.
In some cases, a child may be allowed to state their personal preferences on how they split time with their parents. A judge will consider the child’s age and level of maturity before allowing a child to state their preferences.
Navigating High-Conflict Orlando Divorces
Conti Moore Law is dedicated to advocating for you and your children. We have over 50 years of experience helping thousands of Central Florida families with child custody arrangements, divorce proceedings, and other family law matters. Call us today at 407-584-5069 for a free 15-minute consultation to discuss your case. You can also use our live chat feature to schedule an appointment. Let us fight for you!