When parents divorce, the children are usually their primary concern. Both parents typically want to make the situation as easy on the children as possible and maintain their positions as active parents.

Florida law supports the equal rights of both parents to have substantial time with their children. Contact a Coconut Grove visitation lawyer for help in understanding your rights as a parent and pursuing your custody and visitation goals. Our family attorneys can represent a parent on either side of the visitation question.

Law Favors Contact with Both Parents

“Custody” is the traditional term describing which parent the children lived with after separation or divorce. Usually, one parent had custody and the other parent had occasional time with the children, called visitation.

The law has changed and so have the words that courts use to describe these matters. Custody still describes where the children live, but the law now favors joint physical custody, where children split time with each parent as equally as their schedules can manage. “Visitation” is not used much anymore because children often live part-time with the parent they would have been visiting in the past. Now, the term is more often “parental time-sharing.”

When parents decide to live separately, they must establish a detailed plan for parental time-sharing. If they cannot do so, a court will develop one. Because a court-ordered plan is far less likely to address everyone’s needs, as well as one the parents develop themselves, Judges encourage parents to cooperate and develop a parenting plan that will work effectively for their family.

Requirements for a Parenting Plan

Parents who will be raising their children separately must develop a parenting plan—sometimes called a co-parenting plan or a parental time-sharing plan—that describes how they plan to share parenting time and responsibilities. They must submit this plan to the Judge, who will review it. A Coconut Grove attorney can help a parent develop a plan for visitation that meets their needs and complies with the legal requirements.

Florida Statute § 61.13(2)(b) describes some of the issues a parenting plan must cover. These include the following:

  • Detailed schedule of when the child will spend time with each parent;
  • What nights of the week or dates the child will sleep at each parent’s home;
  • Who will be responsible for the child’s transportation to and from each parent’s home, school, and extracurricular activities;
  • How the parents will divide responsibility for the other daily tasks of child rearing;
  • How the parents will keep in touch with the child when the child is with the other parent;
  • Which parent has the authority to make decisions about various topics;
  • How the parents will resolve disagreements.

Parents can include other topics in the visitation or parenting plan that are relevant to their life.

When a Judge reviews a parenting plan, they analyze whether it is in the children’s best interests. Parents sometimes assume that what works for them is best for the child but that is not always true. A Judge will examine whether the plan keeps the child’s life stable and continuous, meets their health and educational needs, and supports their relationships with family, school, friends, and the broader community.

Changing Visitation Orders

When a Judge approves a parental time-sharing plan, they issue it as an enforceable court order. Both parents must follow the plan unless the Judge changes it.

Over time, the needs and capabilities of the parents may change and the children’s needs and desires will change as they get older. The parenting plan may need to be modified in response to these changes.

When parents agree on the changes they should make, they can revise their plan and submit it to the Judge for approval. If the parents do not agree on the change, the parent seeking the change must petition the court to modify the plan and argue for modification at a hearing. A parent wishing to submit a petition to modify a visitation plan should work with a Coconut Grove attorney to prepare and present the petition to the Judge at the hearing.

Seek Help on Visitation Issues from a Coconut Grove Attorney Today

Ensuring your children grow up in a safe and loving environment is likely your priority. The law promotes both parents’ meaningful contribution to their children’s upbringing by favoring arrangements that provide time for both parents.

When you divorce or separate from your co-parent, speak with a Coconut Grove visitation lawyer. The Florida Probate & Family Law Firm can explain your rights and obligations, and help you develop a parenting plan that meets your goals and supports your children’s welfare. Reach out to our team today for a free case evaluation.