February 10, 2015
Heather Hironimus and Dennis Nebus have a four year old son together from a six-month relationship. When the relationship ended, they agreed to a parenting plan, which was approved by a court. The plan, among many other specifications, stipulated that the child was to be circumcised, that the father of the child was in charge of arranging the circumcision, and that the mother could be present if she wished.
In December 2013, when the son was three, Nebus decided that because of urinary issues, he wanted to circumcise his son. However, the mother had grown to oppose the idea, and took the issue to court. In November 2014, the Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld the Palm Beach County Circuit Court’s order for the mother to comply with the circumcision.
Florida state law requires a parenting plan in any case involving time-sharing with a minor, such as a divorce or custody case. Parents can agree to a plan, which can then be approved by the court. However, if they cannot agree, the court will come up with a plan on its own.
The public policy behind parenting plans is to facilitate frequent and regular contact between minor children and both parents, and to encourage parents to share in childrearing. Thus, Florida law states that the responsibility for parenting should be shared unless the court finds that that would be detrimental in some way to the child. Domestic violence, for example, is evidence of detriment to a child, and a conviction for a domestic violence offense creates a rebuttable presumption of detriment.
What Is in a Parenting Plan?
Parenting plans are required to be approved by a court. Statutorily, they must at minimum detail the following:
- Parental responsibility, or how the parents will share responsibility for the daily tasks of raising the child. The division of parental responsibility comes in two forms:
- Shared parental responsibility – meaning both parents have full parental rights and responsibilities regarding the child. This method is preferred. Parents discuss and decide together the major decisions affecting the child’s welfare.
- Sole parental responsibility – meaning that only one parent makes the decisions regarding the child
- Time-sharing, or a schedule detailing how much time the child spends with each parent.
- This includes overnight visits and holidays.
- Regardless of whether the parents agree on a time-sharing plan, the court has the ultimate authority to decide whether to approve the plan.
- Designate who is in charge of health care.
- School matters, including the address that will be used to determine where the child goes to school.
- The methods and technologies that the parents will use in communicating with their child.
However, as in Hironimus and Nebus’s plan, parenting plans can include additional specifications.
How Is a Plan Approved?
When they review a parenting plan for approval, courts consider many factors, including:
- Each parent’s capacity for a close relationship with the child
- Each parent’s ability to assess and address the child’s needs
- Continuity in the child’s living situation
- The parents’ geographic locations
- The moral, mental, and physical fitness of the parents
- The child’s preference
- Each parent’s ability to provide a stable and caring home for the child
- Each parent’s capacity and willingness to communicate with the other parent
- Evidence of domestic violence, abandonment, or neglect
- Each parent’s ability to be involved in the child’s life
- The child’s developmental and educational needs
- Any other relevant factors
Types of Plan
Florida’s Supreme Court has created forms for three basic types of parenting plans:
- Basic parenting plan: for use when the parents live relatively close to each other
- Supervised and safety-focused plan: for when the child’s safety is an issue in determining time-sharing and parental responsibility
- Relocation or long-distance plan: used when the parents live far apart or when a parent or child is relocating more than fifty miles away
When parents are divorcing or separating, the creation of a detailed parenting plan is very important to successful on-going parenting, and the experience of an attorney can be invaluable if the parents cannot come to an agreement their own. Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a free consultation.