When you hear child custody, you might imagine a lengthy and stressful legal battle with your ex-spouse. Yet in Florida, this does not have to be the case. The family courts in Stuart, Port St. Lucie and throughout the Treasure Coast will allow you to create your own parenting plan first.

Child custody is often a contested matter. If you and your ex-spouse can work together to agree on a parenting plan, however, you may be able to avoid the courtroom. Use these tips to create a plan that could work for the whole family.

Involve a lawyer

Involving an unbiased third party such as a child custody lawyer could help you and your co-parent communicate more openly. A lawyer can help you mediate together, negotiating the right plan for both of you peacefully. A lawyer can also make sure your plan includes everything it needs.

Work out your parenting schedule

The parenting schedule is often the point of contention in a custody case. One spouse will most likely have to forfeit some of his or her time with the kids, since in many cases an even 50/50 split is not sustainable. Keep in mind your child’s age, school schedule and needs.

An effective parenting plan accommodates vacations, holidays, birthdays and special events on top of day-to-day life. Find a way to give both of you ample time with your child, as studies show being around both parents consistently is best for a child’s well-being.

Plan for major decisions

Your parenting plan is not just about a custody arrangement. It is also about addressing your child’s educational, spiritual and medical needs. Figure out whether both of you are capable of handling these responsibilities for your child. If not, you may need to go to trial to win sole decision-making responsibility.

Overall, keep your child’s best interests in mind when creating a parenting plan. A judge in Florida will only sign off on your plan without taking the case to court if it fulfills the child’s best interests.

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