When you are going through a divorce with children, a parenting plan is a document the parents will put together to be approved by the court. The plan will govern the details relating to the responsibilities of each parent following the divorce. In the past, creating this arrangement was routinely specified as a custody arrangement. However, more and more it is now being designated as a parenting plan.
A parenting plan is not a legal document, but it will detail information about legal and physical custody of the children. Legal custody allows parents to make decisions on behalf of the child and will usually be either joint legal custody or sole legal custody if only one parent has authority. Physical custody is the time each parent will spend with the children.
When putting this scheduling plan together, you may want to consider the following which can help create a plan that works best for both parents and children.
See the plan from the children’s point of view – It is easy when creating your parenting plan to adjust everything that will benefit you most. Keep in mind the struggle the kids may experience constantly traveling back and forth between two homes and how the schedule you determine may take them away from friends, school activities and sports.
Let the children have an opinion – One way to make sure your parenting plan works for everyone is to include everyone, specifically the children. If you have kids that are old enough to provide a useful opinion, their wants can greatly help finalizing a plan. Teenagers may have particular reasons as to why they would want to stay at one residence over another, especially if one home is closer to school.
Do not use the plan to inconvenience your ex-spouse – If you have been treating every part of your divorce as a battle that results in a winner or loser, it can be easy to take that mindset to a parenting plan. However, this will most likely hurt the kids more than your ex-spouse. If there is a time for taking a break from the slings and arrows of a contentious divorce, this should be that time.
Be detailed and specific -Ambiguity in the plan will only cause frustration later. Everything from pick-ups at school, holidays, vacation time, extracurricular activities and where the child goes if they are sick and cannot go to school should be detailed.
One thing about a parenting plan, it is by no means a document written in stone that cannot be changed down the line. It may be useful to take the plan for a test drive for a couple of months to see how it is working. If legitimate problems arise, you can speak with an experienced child custody attorney who can help you make an adjustment to the original plan to one that works for everybody.