Module 6



Co-parenting is the term used to describe the process of parents working together to meet the needs of their children. Parents who understand the importance of successful co-parenting and learn effective co-parenting strategies help their children through the challenges of separation and divorce. Putting the child's needs and best interests first must be the guiding principle of success in co-parenting.

The focus of successful co-parenting is how to help promote, encourage and maintain a close, loving relationship between the children and both parents, as this is best for children of all ages. It is important for both parents to have a role in helping a child fully develop.


Some people think the first step in entering the formal divorce or paternity process has to be - find a lawyer and begin the fight. However, a proactive, collaborative approach to divorce and paternity actions brings with it many positives and helps set the tone for a successful transition for all involved – especially the children.


Whether or not you hire an attorney to represent you in a divorce or paternity action is a personal choice. Family law matters can be complex and are almost always encountered during periods of high stress and emotion. Its difficult to make important life decisions while under stress. There are often questions that arise when families change structure. If you and your spouse or significant other cannot work together to resolve the issues, consider hiring a family law attorney to help you wade through the chaos. An experienced and skilled attorney should be able to help you understand the legal issues involved in a divorce or paternity action and give you the advice you need to make informed decisions about your future. But remember, it's an attorney's job to fight to advocate for his client and protect his client's best interests. To try and avoid adversity up front, however, you should first try and work things out yourselves. Some couples prepare the initial documents together, and others use the services of a legal document preparer to fill out the numerous forms. You can always hire an attorney if you find that there is no middle ground for agreement. Attorneys are specifically allowed to offer unbundled services for family law matters. Unbundled services mean that they are not required to take on the entire case. A family law attorney is allowed to act in a limited capacity, such as reviewing your documents after you have prepared them, consulting with you to answer your legal questions, accompanying you to mediation, or appearing in your behalf at a court hearing.


The legal approach is adversarial, while mediation is collaborative. A lawyer has been trained to get as much for his or her client in terms of money, parenting time with the child, and other contended aspects as he or she can. Lawyers want to "win." On the other hand, mediators approach your divorce or paternity action as a neutral third party. Mediators are allowed and expected to consider more broadly what is best for both of you and especially your children. Mediation as the collaborative approach has many advantages. Mediation is a confidential process which is less adversarial, less painful for everyone, faster and less expensive. In order for the mediation process to be most successful, however, both parties must be physically, mentally, and emotionally present and have a genuine desire to work together to resolve the sensitive issues concerning the division of your lives together and matters related to the care of your children.


More and more people are using divorce mediation these days. Mediators are trained to use specific conflict resolution techniques to help you and your spouse or significant other find the best settlement agreement which clearly spells out the terms of the divorce or separation and the relationship between you after the divorce or separation. Mediators resolve things by trying to work them out between the two of you, which is usually faster and sometimes more "win-win." Court-ordered solutions and solutions negotiated with lawyers tend to have sharper lines and less creativity. As a result, they may work less well for both parties than negotiated solutions. Mediation offers both parents the opportunity to come up with creative and more workable solutions for parenting and timesharing. Studies show that parents are more likely to follow the terms set out in marital settlement agreements and Parenting Plans when they have worked together to create the agreement themselves.

Reasons to mediate:

  • It Costs Less: In divorce or paternity mediation, you meet together with one mediator and usually share the cost. If you were to retain separate attorneys to represent you, you would each typically pay a retainer of $1500 to $5000 just to get started.
  • It's Easier on the Children: The worst aspect of a divorce or separation for children is the conflict between the parents. The parents' break up is traumatic enough for children, but when parents work together, it makes the children's lives and transition easier.
  • It's Easier on You: The way your marriage or relationship ends will affect the way you approach future relationships. When you use a mediator to work through important decisions, its easier to move forward and accept the past.
  • You Can Still Go to Court: When you use mediation, you do not give up your right to go to court. If you are not satisfied in mediation, you can stop at any time, retain a separate attorney and have the judge decide the unresolved issues. What has occurred in mediation is legally confidential and cannot be repeated in court, so you can start fresh.
  • Emotions Can Be Managed. In discussions on your own, without a mediator. anger and resentment may be unintentionally triggered. A trained mediator can help you address feelings, without allowing your feelings to dominate your decision making process.
  • It is Confidential. Discussions and tentative agreements are confidential in mediation. Confidentiality makes it easier for you to make offers and consider alternatives without having everything completely planned out. You can arrive at new agreements neither of you had previously considered. You don't give up any legal rights by trying mediation, and what is said in mediation may not be repeated in court. It Builds on the Positive. In mediation, you are both encouraged to find common ground for making agreements. The focus is on decisions about the future, not past behavior.


When the divorce or paternity action is final and the "new life" begins, there will be many decisions that will have to be made concerning the children. Even happily married couples sometimes have difficulties when deciding which parent will handle which responsibilities with the children, what kind of "house rules" will be put in place to govern the family, and how the children will be disciplined. Mediation is a great way to begin the new family structure and learn ways to resolve conflict related to co-parenting.


A Parenting plan establishes parental responsibility and timesharing. A Parenting Plan shall be developed and agreed to by the parents and approved by the court or, if the parents cannot agree, established by the court. The Parenting Plan shall contain a Timesharing Schedule and should address the issues regarding the child's education, health care, and physical, social, and emotional well-being. If you and your spouse or significant other are unable to agree on parenting arrangements and a Timesharing Schedule, a judge will decide for you. The judge will decide the parenting arrangements and timesharing based on the child(ren)'s best interests. Regardless of whether there is an agreement, the court reserves jurisdiction to modify issues relating to the minor children.

Health Insurance. The court expects parents to provide health insurance coverage when health insurance is reasonable in cost and available. Reasonable cost and accessibility is defined by Florida statute.

Child Support. Both parents are required to financially support their children. The court may order one parent to pay child support to assist the other parent in meeting the children's material needs. Florida has adopted statutory guidelines for determining the amount of child support each parent must provide. These guidelines are based on the combined income of both parents and take into account the net income of each parent; which parent is paying for the child's after school care or daycare; which parent is paying for the child's health insurance; and the number of overnight visits the child spends with each parent.

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