Child Custody Laws in Florida


Parenting Plans Overview

When you divorce with minor children, the court requires a Parenting Plan. This document spells out child custody after divorce. in Florida. It would cover at least the following issues:

  • Names and Ages of the Child(ren)
  • Whether both (most common) or only one parent will have parental responsibility.
  • Who would make day-to-day decisions?
  • Which parent(s) would make a decision about the extracurricular activity.
  • Time-sharing schedule-weekday and weekend.
  • Holiday Schedule (Christmas or Hanukkah, Easter, etc). Summer Break.
  • A total number of overnights per parent.
  • Transportation of the child(ren)
  • Out of State Travel
  • Designation for other legal purposes
  • How Parents will communicate with each other (E.g., in person, by email, text, etc…)
  • Decisions regarding child care.
  • Anything else that is relevant to the family situation.

For a parenting plan form go to this site for the court-approved form.

Modifying a Parenting Plan

Sometimes a parenting plan needs to be modified. Life circumstances change and the parenting plan doesn’t work anymore. Sometimes, one or both parents forgot to address important custody in the plan.

COVID-19 Update!-Parenting Plans during a pandemic

I imagine there are few far-sighted parents out there that made contingency parenting plans in case of a worldwide pandemic. However, most of us failed to predict this life-changing event.

As you may or may not know, most courts canceled in-person hearings. Nearly all family hearings are currently heard via Zoom. Whether you like online communications of sorts is a matter of personal preference. What is true is that this will be the norm for family hearings for the foreseeable future.

The COVID issue can cause issues with your parenting plan. For example, what if the state restricts movement and you are not able to perform regular in-person time sharing? What is a parent using COVID as a way to prevent the other parent from seeing their child? Guidelines coming from most Florida districts seem to be to continue any existing child custody orders. A parent can use the pandemic as an excuse to behave unreasonably.

What would be considered unreasonable behavior? What if one parent is a doctor who worked with COVID-positive patients? Would the other parent be considered unreasonable to restrict time-sharing? Only future court hearings will decide such issues. There will be a lot of contractions and policies in place to deal with child custody. Different judges will make different determinations and there will obviously be some inconsistencies across the state.

If there is a restriction in movement, then perhaps additional telephonic or video conferencing should be made available to the child to reduce any anxiety from not seeing the other parent.

COVID Ready Parenting Plan?

Because of all the uncertainty regarding the disease parents and their lawyers will have to work hard to craft parenting plans that work. Child custody in Florida parenting plans always starts with the best interest of the child. The following issues should be addressed:

  • Trying to maintain the status quo.
  • Protect the physical safety of the minor child.
  • Preserving sibling relationships.
  • Maintain regular schooling.
  • Discuss and cope with any anxieties that the child has regarding the pandemic
  • Use the additional phone and electronic communications to accomplish these goals.

What if I already have a custody agreement from a court in another country?

Under a law known as the UCCJEA, an American court in Florida and all other states are required in most cases to honor and enforce foreign custody orders.