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Common language often uses terms like “custody,” “visitation,” “primary residential parent,” and “secondary residential parent,” and while these terms were previously used in Florida statutes, in 2008, Florida laws changed significantly. Parents are referenced as “Mom” and “Dad” or "Mother" and "Father" and exercise "timesharing" with their child, which is laid out within a “Parenting Plan.”

In every case where minors are involved, Section 61.13, Florida Statutes states that the Court shall order that parents share the parental responsibility for the child or children unless the Court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child or children. That means that the primary position of the Court is that both parents will be required to continue to communicate and work together to make decisions that are in the best interests of their child. 

Parenting Plans can include a variety of topics that may include but is not limited to:

  • How both parents will make important decisions regarding their children such as education, health care, religion, etc. This is referred to as Parental Responsibility.

  • When time will be spent with each parent.

  • How parents will share holidays, birthdays and summer break.

  • Which parent’s address will be used for school boundaries and legal purposes.

  • How International travel will be handled.

If the Court determines that shared parental responsibility would not be in the best interest of the child or children, the Court may order sole parental responsibility (sole decision-making authority) for the chosen parent and then specify time sharing in the Parenting Plan, taking necessary considerations to protect the child children and other parent from potential harm. The Court may also order sole parental responsibility without time sharing with the other parent if it is in the best interests of the child or children.

When parents cannot agree to a Parenting Plan, the Court must make the determination for the family. Many factors, as listed by Section 61.13, Florida Statutes, go into the Court’s decision when determining the best interests of the child or children. Some of them are as follows:

  • The parents’ demonstrated capacity to continue a parent child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.

  • How parental responsibilities will be split between parents and if they will be delegated to third parties (nannies, significant others, etc.)

  • The parents’ demonstrated capacity to put their child’s needs above their own.

  • How long the child has lived in a stable and healthy environment.

  • The geographic feasibility of the parenting plan, with specific regard for school-age children, and the amount of time to be spent traveling to honor the parenting plan.

  • The moral standards demonstrated by the parents.

  • The mental and physical health of the parents.

  • The home, school and community record of the child or children.

  • The preference of the child.

  • How well each parent knows their children and each child’s community, including but not limited to their friends, teachers, medical providers, activities, and interests.

  • The ability each parent has to provide a consistent routine for their child.

  • The ability each parent has to communicate with the other parent and keep them informed of issues and activities so that they may co-parent effectively.

  • Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.

  • Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.

  • How parenting duties were split between the parents and third parties prior to the beginning of litigation.

  • How often did each parent participate in their child’s school and extracurricular activities prior to the start of litigation and will they be able to participate after completion.

  • The demonstrated ability for a parent to provide and maintain a substance abuse free environment for their child or children.

  • The ability of each parent to protect their child from the divorce and their ability to refrain from disparaging the other parent in front of the child.

  • The developmental needs and stages of the child and the parents’ ability to meet those needs.

  • Any other factors that are relevant to determining the specific Parenting Plan for each individual family.

Because there are so many different facets that make up your child’s life, the Court can choose to look at far more than what is listed above, so it is important to be prepared. At Wheaton Law, Wyndi and her team have years of experience preparing and negotiating Parenting Plans and hopefully both parents can agree to a plan. However, when an agreement can’t be reached, Wyndi is always ready to fight for your child’s best interest.


The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation.

This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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