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What is a parenting agreement?

Most child custody cases can be resolved before it is necessary to bring the matter before a court. In fact, considering that resolving a child custody matter out of court is faster and less costly and stressful, it's clear to see why most Florida parents do everything they can to avoid the courts with their child custody cases. In order to resolve a child custody dispute out of court, however, parents will need to agree on a parenting plan.

A parenting plan lays out the agreement that determines how the parents will care for the child, who the child will be with at specific times and how major decisions about a child's life and upbringing will be made. Sometimes, it may help to involve a mediator or the collaborative law process in order to finalize the parenting plan.

Here's what the parenting plan needs to include:

-- Where the child shall live

-- The visitation schedule

-- Which parent will make major decisions about the child's welfare and upbringing

-- Who the child will be with on birthdays, vacations and important holidays

-- How the child will be in contact with family friends, grandparents and other individuals

-- How changes to the agreement will be made

Once the parenting agreement has been finalized, it is then submitted to court for approval. In cases that also involve a divorce, the parenting agreement will be handled by the same judge presiding over the divorce proceedings. The judge may ask for an informal hearing to be held between the parents to ascertain that both sides understand and agree to their parenting plan.

Parenting plans can be drawn up without the assistance of an attorney. However, because the welfare of the children and parental custody rights depend on the agreement, Florida residents may want to include an experienced family law attorney in this process.

Source: FindLaw, "The Parenting Agreement," accessed Aug. 26, 2016

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