In 2008, the State of Florida changed the laws regarding child custody. According to the new law, neither parent is designated as the “custodial” or “primary residential care” parent. Rather, the Courts require parents to divide care of their minor children according to a parenting plan. This plan not only sets forth the amount of time each parent is entitled to spend with a child, but outlines how parents will share in the major decisions regarding the children (also called "parental responsibility). Typically, the parenting plan still provides one parent the majority of time with the children, while the other parent enjoys contact according to a set schedule.
In Polk County, the Courts have designed parenting plans that will be used if the parents cannot reach an agreement on their own regarding the division of care. There are three (3) basic forms: Supervised/Safety Focused Parenting Plan wherein one parent has sole parental responsibility subject to supervised contact by the other parent; Local Parenting Plan wherein the parents are awarded shared parental responsibility subject to a set visitation schedule; or Non-Local Parenting Plan which is used in situations where the parents reside more than fifty (50) miles apart.
The main factor that the Court will take into consideration when determining the division of care of minor children and structuring a parenting plan is the best interests of the children. As such, a father is granted equal consideration and has the opportunity to be awarded more time than a mother with the children.
Keep in mind that a parent cannot refuse contact with a child due to the other parent’s failure to pay child support.
According to Florida law, once a final order has been entered regarding visitation, a parent with whom a minor child lives cannot move the child’s residence more than fifty (50) miles from the child’s address at the time of entry of the order without the other parent’s written consent and/or a court order. Failure to either obtain the other parent’s written consent and/or a court order approving the move could result in the court requiring you return the child to the area from you moved. Florida law specifically outlines the process for relocation of a minor child; therefore, you should seek the advice of an attorney if you have any questions or concerns.
MODIFICATION OF A PARENTING PLAN:
Modification of child support means to either make an upward or downward change in the amount of support a minor child receives. Florida law authorizes the court to modify child support payments when the financial ability of either party changes or the child who is the beneficiary of an agreement or order reaches majority.
Florida law sets forth three grounds for modification of child support: (1) when modification is found necessary by the court and is in the best interest of the child; (2) when the child reaches majority; and (3) when there is a substantial change in the circumstances of the parties. The party seeking modification must prove that there has been a substantial change of circumstances and must show that this change is significant, material, involuntary and permanent in nature. Substantial change may be either the child’s needs or a parent’s income. Once the court finds that there has been a substantial change, the court must consider all of the statutory factors in recalculating the child support obligation.
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