On January 1, 2018, a new child custody law went into effect in Florida. The intention of the law, known as the Standard Parenting Time Plan, is to streamline the sharing of parental rights between parents who are no longer together. The bill also seeks to shift the focus back to the best interests of the child.
If you are currently negotiating a parenting plan or are looking to make a change in your parenting plan, it’s important to review the new law – and to be aware of how it may affect your case.
Below, we’re going to review the basics of the law and the terms suggested for the parenting schedule with shared child custody.
The Purpose of the Standard Parenting Time Plan
The overarching goal of the Standard Parenting Time Plan, introduced in Senate Bill 590, is to shift the focus of parenting plans back to the best interests of the child, which has been a recent trend in family law in general for the past few years.
The law encourages parents to work together to develop a plan that works for both parents as well as the child, and is compatible with collaborative approaches to divorce and child custody.
As a part of child custody, both parents agree upon a parenting plan that lays out visitation for the non-custodial parent – in other words, the parent that has non-majority custody and likely pays child support. Parents are encouraged to develop a plan that is best suited to everyone involved, but if the parents have not developed a parenting schedule at the time of the child support hearing, the Standard Parenting Time Plan is suggested.
The law also waives the petition fee for filing the parenting time plan in most cases, which aims to make the process more manageable for both parents.
Terms of the Standard Parenting Time Plan
The new law, laid out in Statute 409.25633, suggests the following parenting time schedule for the non-custodial parent:
- Every other weekend: The second and fourth full weekend of each month from 6PM on Friday until 6PM on Sunday. Alternatively, weekends may begin on the child’s release from school on Friday and/or end when the child returns to school the following Monday morning if agreed upon by both parents. The weekend can also be extended to holidays that fall on the Monday or Friday of the visitation weekend.
- One evening per week: One weekday evening each week, beginning at 6PM and ending at 8PM. The evening can also begin when the child is released from school that day and end at 8PM, if both parents agree.
- Thanksgiving break: In even-numbered years, Thanksgiving break. This begins at 6PM on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and ends at 6PM on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It may also begin on the child’s release from school on Wednesday and/or end on the child’s return to school the following Monday.
- Winter break: In odd-numbered years, the first half of winter break. This begins at the child’s release from school for winter break and ends at noon on December 26th. In even-numbered years, the second half of winter break. This begins at noon on December 26th and ends at 6PM on the day before the child’s return to school. It may also end on the first morning back to school.
- Spring break: In even-numbered years, the week of spring break, beginning 6PM on the day the child is released from school, and ending at 6PM the night before the child returns to school. It may also begin when the child is released from school and/or end the morning that the child returns to school if agreed upon by both parents.
- Summer break: Two weeks in the summer each year, beginning at 6PM on the first Sunday following the child’s release from school for the summer.
Importantly, this law lays out only the suggested guidelines for the parenting schedule. Parents are encouraged to develop an individualized parenting schedule that accommodates both parents’ employment and the child’s schedule and best interests.
Addressing Child Safety Concerns in Florida
The Standard Parenting Plan does not apply to cases where domestic violence has been involved. Further, if a parent becomes concerned about the child’s safety while with the other parent, modifications can be sought through appropriate jurisdiction. However, proof of safety concerns is required in order to successfully petition for safety-related modifications.
If you are currently negotiating child custody, the best way to protect your rights and your child’s best interests is to seek out the help of an experienced and compassionate Florida family lawyer. He or she can help you develop an arrangement that is in your child’s best interest and is fair to everyone involved.