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4 elements of a successful parenting plan

In Florida, child custody is rarely all-or-nothing. The law encourages both parents to be actively involved in the lives of their children (except when there are special circumstances such as domestic abuse).

Yet it's no easy task to spell out what that involvement looks like in each family's situation. That's why parenting plans are so important.

These plans - which are mandatory whenever there's a time-sharing arrangement - outline every aspect of custody. The goal is for the parents, the children and the court to all be on the same page.

So what goes into a parenting plan? At minimum, it must contain:

  1. A schedule: The plan should include all details of the time-sharing arrangement, from overnights to holidays to school breaks to the logistics of transportation and custody exchanges.
  2. Parental decision-making: In many cases, parents will have joint responsibility when it comes to major decisions regarding the children's lives, such as schools and health care. However, the plan may instead allocate final say on specific topics to one parent.
  3. Day-to-day tasks: Typically, the parent who has physical custody of the children will have responsibility for day-to-day tasks and decisions that don't have a long-term impact on the children's welfare.
  4. How to communicate: Communication is the bedrock of coparenting. The plan should specify how and when the parents will communicate.

Clear expectations are at the heart of any successful parenting plan. In general, the more detailed the parenting plan, the less likely it will give rise to disputes.

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