New Law Will Standardize Parenting Plans, But Does One Option Fit All Families?
Nothing is more important to parents than providing for and taking care of their child. Parents are quite willing to make a number of sacrifices for the sake of their child, but divorce or separation can challenge a parent’s ability to do his/her best. Figuring out a time-sharing schedule and parenting plan that will work for a particular family is one of the most essential aspects of any child-related family law case, and for obvious reasons, can lead to conflict if the parties cannot agree. Typically, all time-sharing plans require a court’s approval before they are enforceable, which adds time and expense to the proceedings and contributes to an already-full court docket. A new law that is set to take effect on January 1, 2018 is designed to streamline the creation and execution of a time-sharing schedule by allowing parents to enter into a voluntary standardized time-sharing plan that bypasses the need for court approval. Further, these plans would support the State’s policy of encouraging frequent contact with both parents by giving the secondary caregiver (non-custodial parent) enforceable rights to see his/her child. While this option will simplify settling child custody issues, there are some potential concerns parents need to consider. An overview on how the new law will work, and why many couples are better advised to consult a family law attorney before signing a one-size-fits-all parenting time plan, will follow below.
New Standardized Parenting Time Plans
The new standardized time-sharing plans will be offered when a non-custodial parent, in connection with an administrative child support (IV-D) order, meets with the Florida Department of Revenue (DOR) to set up a child support payment account. IV-D cases are part of an administrative process handled by the DOR, and occur when the child’s primary caregiver (custodial parent) seeks assistance from the DOR with the establishment or enforcement of child support or the establishment of paternity. A standardized time-sharing plan will be offered to parents that have a plan in place, and incorporated into the child support order if both parents agree to its terms. However, this plan is not available if any of the following apply:
- Florida is not the child’s home state;
- one parent lives outside Florida;
- a parent fears for his/her safety and wants to withhold his/her location; or
- the parent obligated to pay support is incarcerated.
The standard time-sharing schedule that will be offered is fairly basic, and limits its coverage to weekly visits and major holidays/school breaks. An example of the time schedule that will be offered includes:
- every other weekend with the non-custodial parent from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Sunday, with allowances for extra time on long holiday weekends;
- one evening per week from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., or when the child is released from school until 8 p.m.; and
- two weeks during summer vacation, and, in alternating years, time during Thanksgiving, winter and spring breaks.
Note that the enforcement or modification of these standard parenting time plans would still have to be handled by a court, as the DOR has no authority to compel compliance.
It is true that adopting a standard time-sharing schedule will save parents the time and money of going to court. However, this plan is not particularly flexible, and fails to include provisions for parents with non-traditional schedules or those that have to travel for work. Further, it does not address how to handle parenting time missed, which is bound to happen at some point due to unavoidable and unforeseen issues. These omissions are just a few examples of how this standard plan fails to account for important issues, and highlights why parents need complete parenting plans that make sense for their family. Experienced family law attorneys can help identify unconsidered issues and customize a plan so it is workable and fair.
Contact an Orlando Timesharing & Parenting Plan Attorney
Time-sharing and parental responsibility issues are critical, and deserve the attention of a knowledgeable family law attorney who can help ensure the outcome is desirable and makes sense. The Donna Hung Law Group takes the time to develop a relationship and work closely with their clients in order to fully address their needs. If you live in Orlando or the surrounding area, contact the group today at (407) 999-0099 to learn how we can help you.