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The importance of parenting plans in a divorce

When Florida parents of young children decide to get a divorce, they will likely have joint legal custody in most cases, allowing each of them to have a say in major decisions affecting their offspring such as religion and schooling. Prior to going to family court, it is recommended that the parents negotiate the terms of their separate parenting roles and document their decisions within a formal parenting plan. This process reduces the chances of disputes going unresolved and forcing a court to impose terms.

A parenting plan follows a basic structure that spells out the weekend and weekday schedule for physical custody, decision making about schools and extracurricular activities and who gets to have the children on birthdays and holidays. Other factors that might arise in the future could be addressed in the plan. As an example, a section on a long-distance move by one parent could address how the relocation would alter the existing physical custody schedule.

Because circumstances in each parent's life will change over time, the parenting plan provides a foundation upon which future decisions can be made. As a written record, the plan serves as a means of settling disputes. Every modification to the plan should also be written. This documentation will provide an important reference point if an issue flares up into a dispute and the parents return to court.

The end of a marriage is often hard on the estranged spouses, and it can be a particularly difficult time for their young children as well. Negotiating a parenting plan with the assistance of their respective attorneys and then carrying it out can be one way to show the children that their parents will still remain in their lives.

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