Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes that governs family matters requires the court to order a parenting plan in proceedings involving children. A parenting plan is a document created to govern the relationship between the parties relating to decisions made regarding the minor child(ren), and it must contain a detailed time-sharing schedule for the parents and the child(ren). The parenting plan may include issues concerning the child(ren) such as the child(ren)’s education, health care, social, physical, and emotional well-being.
Parenting plan facilitation is unique to the 12th Judicial Circuit and was formerly known as the Custody Monitor Program. The court may order a social study and parenting plan facilitation when the court finds that the parties’ lack of cooperation negatively affects a child’s relationship with a parent, and/or when the parties are unable to establish or comply with previously ordered or agreed upon contact arrangements between the parties and the child(ren). This program is meant to address chronically problematic contact plans, only to be used as a last resort in the most extreme instances.
Parenting plan facilitation is a social study conducted by a qualified mental health professional to help parties establish or modify parenting plan arrangements. In order to reduce conflict and to assist the parties in establishing a contact plan, the parties will communicate through the parenting plan facilitator during the social study period unless the facilitator determines otherwise. There will be at least three judicial review dates set by the court that the facilitator and the parties are required to attend. The facilitator informs the court as to each party’s commitment to the principals of shared parenting and any obstacles identified to establishing an effective parenting plan that would benefit the child.
Parenting plan facilitators are NOT parenting coordinators, nor are they performing a full social investigation/evaluation for the court.
Facilitators can be clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, or mental health counselors licensed pursuant to Chapter 491, Florida Statutes, or psychologists licensed pursuant to Chapter 490, Florida Statutes. Licensure must be in Clear and Active Status. Facilitators are required to possess multiple skills, including techniques for interviewing and assessing adults, children and families; identifying, organizing and understanding important collateral sources of information; and report writing.
Facilitators are also required to have knowledge, training and experience in the areas of child development, family systems, the effects of divorce on children and families, other issues common to families in crisis (e.g., domestic violence, substance abuse, child abuse, etc.), and the accepted standards of professional conduct governing their respective professions. Facilitators are required to have completed the Supreme Court certified family mediation course. They are authorized to conduct a social study pursuant to section 61.20 of the Florida Statutes.
The court may order a social study and parenting plan facilitation:
If the court determines that the case and the parties meet the requirements to be eligible for a 12th Judicial Circuit reduced fee court appointed social study, the Family Division Case Manager will provide the parties with the name of the professional assigned to the case, as well as other pertinent information. Circuit court appointed facilitators provide services at a substantially reduced rate than private professionals, and are assigned to cases in rotation off of a list of 12th Judicial Circuit approved mental health professionals. Parties may only stipulate to a certain facilitator if the court orders a private social study and facilitator to the case. All parties are required to cooperate fully with the court’s order and Circuit procedures.
The Court has the responsibility and the final authority for all decisions. Any parenting plan agreed to by the parties or recommended by a professional must be approved by the court.
Court appointed facilitators provide standard, court-approved services to needy persons at the substantially reduced rate of $1,800.
Both parties will be expected to contribute to the costs of the social study as determined by the court and as specified in the court order.
Additional court appearances, depositions or proceedings requested by the parties are subject to the mental health professionals’ standard fee schedule and shall be paid by the requesting party pursuant to an agreement between the professional and the party.
For more information about the 12th Judicial Circuit’s Social Study and Parenting Plan Facilitation Reduced Fee Program, please visit the "Family Division Program Page", or contact Monica Ausborn at (941) 749-3600 x 7098
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