When parents divorce or separate and a child is involved, decisions about where the child will live, how the child will be raised, and the routine decision-making about the child’s upbringing is often a difficult and emotional issue for parents to sort out in the midst of their divorce. With so many decisions that need to be made in the context of a divorce and child custody situation, it is not uncommon for the parents to become frustrated, stressed, and overwhelmed, especially if they do not know where to begin. So where does a parent involved in a divorce and child custody begin? You can begin by working on a parenting plan separately or together that takes into consideration your child’s needs and also reflects what you believe to be in the overall best interest of your child.
A parenting plan is a document that outlines the parenting schedule or timeshare and can include each parent’s responsibilities in raising their child. A parenting plan can be lengthy and detailed or it can be brief and simple. It should include a standard parenting schedule, which can delineate where the child will live during the week and weekends and who will be responsible for transporting the child to and from school and other activities on certain days. Additionally, the parenting plan can address holidays, summer vacations, and how other special days during the year will be divided between the parents. Regardless of what is included in your parenting plan, it should be predictable, clear, and easy to understand. Further, the parenting plan should take into consideration the needs of the child and reflect his or her overall best interest.
Because dynamics vary from family to family, there is no one-size-fits-all parenting plan that works well for all families. Some parents may have a shared parenting plan, which allows the child frequent and/or continuous contact with each parent 50% of the time. Other parenting plans may limit one parent’s contact to every other weekend plus a mid-week visit or mid-week overnight. Still others may add additional restrictions, perhaps allowing for dinner visits but no overnights.
Although it is wise to create a parenting plan that you believe reflects the best interest of your child, it is also wise to consider consulting an attorney to learn where you stand legally on your particular matter before entering into any proposed parenting plan agreement. This is especially important in cases where you believe the other party has ulterior motives or is not working in good faith to build a parenting plan that truly reflects the overall best interest of your child.
Benefits of a Detailed Parenting Plan
When parents come to an agreement on a detailed parenting plan that reflects the overall best interest of their child, they will often enjoy a more stable, predictable, and consistent schedule by reducing the amount of misunderstandings, conflicts, and legal costs often associated with litigation and the courts.
How can parents and their children benefit from a detailed parenting plan? Creating a detailed parenting plan can provide predictability in the parenting schedule for both parents and their child. This allows the parents to make plans for the child and implement a regular and consistent parenting routine for him or her. A child who knows in advance which parent he or she will be with and what he or she will be doing can feel more secure, stable, and self-confident than a child who is left constantly worrying and wondering about living arrangements.
How can a detailed parenting plan reduce legal costs? Having a detailed parenting plan can reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings between the parents and the conflicts parents often face with ambiguous parenting schedules. Having a detailed parenting plan can reduce the potential for disagreements between the parents, thereby helping the parents stay out of court and away from litigation. Over time, parents who have a detailed parenting plan in place typically experience lower legal fees and attorney costs, which are often associated with high-conflict child custody disputes and protracted child custody litigation.
As stated previously, it is wise to consult an attorney before entering into a detailed parenting plan agreement.