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On parenting plans, child custody and a child's input in the process

A common feature of a divorce settlement between the parents of children is the parenting plan. This agreement is often made during child custody arrangements to determine how parenting duties will be divided in a way that best benefits the child. In many cases, Florida parents are expected to adhere strictly to these plans, which can sometimes be a bit rigid and, at times, even inflexible.

This can become a problem as a child ages and his or her needs change. It is possible that a parenting plan once designed to benefit the child can become a hindrance to the child's needs, and in these circumstances, children often have little say in how this plan is adapted in their favor. As a result, many children suffer through the same parenting plan regardless of their ages and their ever-changing schedules and personal needs.

Complicating matters is that the parenting plan agreement process can be difficult for both parents. As a result, many are uninterested in putting themselves through the emotional draining process again. And as a misguided effort to protect their children from these difficult matters, many parents shield their kids from discussions regarding their custody and parenting plans, creating further problems.

A number of propositions have been made to address these issues. Some call for periodic mandatory reviews of parenting plans to make sure they continue to serve the best interests of the child. Another suggestion is that a child be privy to all meaningful discussions and allowed to contribute opinions regarding his or her well-being, even if the child eventually declines to do so. Some even suggest that a child's requests should trump the opinions of lawyers and judges, provided at least one parent supports a request.

Source: New York Times, "In whose best interests?" Ruth Bethlehem, May 19, 2012

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