Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Designation for other Legal Purposes v. School Designation

Florida is a progressive state in that it does not recognize a primary parent or even a majority parent. We have time-sharing of children and in most cases, except those very unique cases, the parties also share parental responsibility. Because Florida is a progressive state, and because other State and Federal Laws have not caught up to the laws here in Florida, there is a requirement that parenting plans have a parent named as the legal custodian for other legal purposes. The language usually stated in parenting plans is as follows:

"Designation for other legal purposes. The children named in this agreement are scheduled to reside the majority of the time with the father. This majority designation is solely for purposes of all other state & federal laws which require such a designation. This designation does not affect either parents rights & responsibilities under this agreement."

I used to believe that this was a benign provision that was only needed for purposes of Federal laws and other State Laws that require a designation. What I am finding is that there are many people, including attorneys and county schools, who read this provision in a not so benign fashion. They read it to mean that the person who is named for legal purposes is allowed to make decisions related to where a child is to go to school and whose address will be used for school designation purposes regardless of whether there is a provision in the parenting plan regarding school. This is not such a big when there truly is a person who has the majority of the time with the children and is doing the majority of the school-related heavy lifting. This becomes an issue when there is 50/50 or 60/40 time-sharing and someone chooses to move less than 50 miles away rendering a time-sharing schedule virtually impossible because someone believes that their address is what should be used for school designation purposes because they are named as the Legal Custodian in this provision of a parenting plan.

To avoid this, the best thing to do is to designate an address for school designation purposes and say that this is provided that the person remains living within 15 miles of their current residence. Further indicate that in the Legal Custodian Section that this does not apply to address designation for school purposes. I hate to believe that people always have ulterior motives when they are drafting and agreeing to certain provisions in parenting plans, but you have to protect yourself so that in the future, your kids don't automatically end up in a different school because of this supposedly "benign" provision. If you are not a majority time-sharing parent, it may be additionally smart to place a relocation restriction in your parenting plan to avoid your ex from moving far enough away from you to make your parenting plan difficult. Right now, the way that the current statute reads, there is only a restriction from moving more than a 50 mile radius. With the changes that have occurred in our state with time-sharing and moving more towards a situation where in most cases the parties enjoy 50/50 time-sharing, I suspect the geographical restriction will be smaller.