All states have plans for long-distance parents who share custody. Some simply assign a percentage of custody to each parent, adjusted for the distance between them. Others, such as Florida, have direct plans to address the issue.
Florida uses the Long-Distance Parenting Plan, defining “long-distance” as being fifty or more miles apart. This means the plan can apply even if a parent moves out of state. The distance itself matters, not the location.
It’s important to have authority over important decisions that affect your child. Most notably, a parent must have power over healthcare and educational matters.
Florida’s parenting plan grants these powers, and it lays them out very clearly.
Authority can be divided in three ways:
- Equal Decision-Making Power
Each parent has full authority over a decision.
- Final Decision-Make Power
Each parent has input, but only one makes the final choice.
- Sole Decision-Making Power
Only one parent can make a choice.
You can divide these powers into several combinations. One parent has sole decision-making power on all matters. One parent may have sole decision-making power over healthcare, and the other over education. Parents can share authority over one matter, but only one makes decisions over another. The possibilities go on from there. The point is that you can mix and match these powers as necessary for your family.
The plan specifies who can make decisions about these activities. It also outlines who pays for them, who takes the kids to or picks them up from the event, and so on.
This part of the plan is highly detailed, and it is crucial to managing your long-distance parenting. It plans for scheduled visits, which can include electronic communication. The state takes phone calls and video chats seriously, and the other parent cannot block this scheduled time.
The plan also accounts for direct possession of the kids and overnight stays. It determines how the kids will be transported at these times and who pays for this transport.
There is also a section just for holiday visits, and it accounts for many scenarios. You can decide to designate certain holidays for just one parent. For instance, the kids will always spend Christmas with one parent and Thanksgiving with the other. You can also swap major holidays every year.
The plan even accounts for rotating holidays. Father’s Day and Mother’s Day have different calendar dates every year. The plan introduces flexibility for these days. If, for instance, Father’s Day falls on a weekend normally reserved for the mother, the plan can allow the kids to be with the dad instead.
Alternatively, you can make the plan more rigid. The kids can always stay with their designated parent, regardless of any special days that come and go during that time.
Florida’s long-distance parenting plan even builds in specific penalties for parents who miss appointments, poorly communicate, pick up or drop off kids late, etc. This helps erase any confusion or doubt, as parents will know exactly what is expected and how they will be penalized for breaking the plan.
How to Negotiate Your Plan
You can allow the court to make these decisions. However, that may leave you with an unsatisfying plan, and you’ll be forced to follow it. You can also work the plan out with your spouse, but that might be difficult. Mediation can help, as it gives a neutral third party the chance to help you talk out your needs and find solutions you might miss.
If you need help with a long-distance parenting plan in Florida, contact our office for a free consultation. You can call us at (904) 701-0591 or reach out online. **Consultation fees may apply to family law consultations.