Several years ago, I wrote an article urging divorcing parties to include a detailed visitation agreement in their divorce or marital settlement agreements. That article can still be found at ezinearticles.com and other places on the World Wide Web. I wrote that article because so many of our clients were coming to us years after being represented by other attorneys in their divorce with issues and questions about visitation that were not addressed by their agreements or court orders. Since I wrote that article, the laws of Florida divorce have been changed and a parenting plan is now required in any dissolution of marriage involving minor children. The new laws also change the terminology. Instead of referring to " custody" and "visitation", we talk about "time sharing."
The Florida Supreme Court has adopted a standard form for the Parenting Plan. The Parenting Plan form addresses many of the issues that I encouraged folks to address in my article. These issues included the following:
- The time sharing schedule, previously called a visitation schedule. It should specify on which days of the week and what weeks of the year time sharing will occur. What holidays will the children spend with each parent. Whether those holiday visits alternate from year to year. What the time sharing will be on birthdays, Mother's Day and Father's Day.
- The exchange. The Parenting Plan requires you to set forth when and where the children will be exchanged and who is responsible for transporting the children to the location of the exchange.
- Communication and notice. If a parent won't be able to meet an obligation, as set out in the Parenting Plan, how will the parent notify the other parent in a way that minimizes the impact of the unmet obligation? How much advanced notice should be given if a visit must be canceled? Will third parties be involved in the communication process? The method of communication should avoid the use of the children as messengers as much as possible.
The best divorce lawyers in St. Petersburg recognize that the requirement of a Parenting Plan is very positive step and eliminates many of the issues and questions experienced by my earlier clients. It is important, however, to keep in mind that the Parenting Plan will likely need to be modified after it is adopted by the court. The lives of divorced parties change. Parents begin new relationships with significant others or change jobs. These changes frequently affect many of the issues addressed in the Parenting Plan. When these changes occur it is important that the parents be flexible and fair. Expert Florida divorce lawyers will remind divorced parents that it is in the child's best interest for both parents to have frequent, unhampered and meaningful access to their children.