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Turning norms of shared parenting around

Florida is not among the states in the U.S. that make a presumption of equal time when it comes to creating parenting plans in divorce. The Legislature approved such a measure several years ago, but the governor vetoed it. His reason for the action was that adopting the premise runs the risk of prioritizing the wants of parents over the best interests of the children.

The standard of the child's best interests does prevail in Florida, but that does not mean the concept of equally shared parenting time is off the table. Parents can propose a schedule that includes equally divided time with the children. The key to seeing it approved is to make sure the plan's provisions clearly articulate how they serve the children's best interests.

The availability of such flexibility opens the door to creativity in designing parenting plans that achieve optimal ends as defined by all the parties involved. Because there are so many complex issues to address and articulate within the context of the law's view of best interests, working with an experienced attorney is always wise.

An example of innovation that parenting planning can inspire is perhaps best seen in the recent trend called "nesting." In simple terms, this model turns the traditional structure in which children shuttle between parents and two homes on its head. In the view of many experts, those who follow it are clearly showing their commitment to the well-being of the children.

Under a nesting plan, the family home is maintained so that children continue to have stability of residence. The onus of adapting lifestyles is on the parents who come and go, taking turns based on a set schedule.

Experts laud the apparent benefits of nesting for children, but warn parents they can expect challenges. These can include:

  • A greater need to work cooperatively and amicably on resolving child-related issues
  • Solid agreement and consistency in child-raising practice, such as the use of discipline
  • Living by a common set of ground rules regarding home upkeep and maintenance

In addition to those demands, the cost of maintaining away places for each parent deserves consideration. As do the implications if either parent finds a new partner.

Fortunately, the law does allow for modifications of plans if they prove unworkable. However, the law requires showing that a "substantial, material, and unanticipated change of circumstances" has occurred.

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