During a divorce, many states require that separating parents create a parenting plan. Making a parenting plan can be very intimidating when you are not prepared, or if you are unsure of what goes into it. Let’s begin with the basics: a parenting plan is an official, written document that the parents create according to the agreements that they have made regarding how to raise the children of the marriage.
1. Decide Custody
The very first thing you should do before creating a parenting plan is decide whether custody of the children will be joint or sole. Child custody is a complex area of law and the laws in each state are different. However, generally, custody includes the right to make major decisions about the children’s lives, including decisions about their education, health, religion, extracurricular activities, and personal care.
If you choose to share custody, this may mean you need to decide how to share major decision-making for the children. For example, will your ex-spouse decide education and health decisions, while you decide religion and extracurriculars? Or, will you agree to come to a decision together on all major decision-making areas? Remember, every state law is different, so it is extremely important to check with your specific state custody laws.
Don’t forget about deciding where the child will live. In addition to decision-making rights (i.e. legal custody), parents must also determine physical custody, meaning where the children will live. Physical custody can also be shared or sole.
2. Map Out Very Specific Parenting Time Frames
You must map out exactly when the children will be with you and your ex-spouse, down to the hour. There are many different parenting plans that you can go with; for example, the week on, week off plan or every other weekend plan. Whatever parenting plan you want, you must map out the exact amount of parenting time each parent will have with the child, including begin and end times. Do your research and decide what plan works best for your children.
3. Determine Holidays
This may seem simple, but it can get very complicated. Sure, you have mapped out your basic holidays, such as, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Easter, but have you considered other holidays that your family recognizes, such as Super Bowl Sunday? Maybe you have an annual family party that you want to request. You should also consider birthdays. It is very important to do a thorough mental screen of your calendar to determine any days that you may consider a holiday.
Additionally, it is important to define what each holiday means to you. Does Christmas mean Christmas Eve or Christmas day for you? This can create conflict if one parent thought Christmas included Christmas Eve. That is why it is crucial to create beginning and end times for holidays as well.
4. Figure out Vacation Parenting Time
School-aged children will receive vacation time off school, such as winter break, spring break, and summer break. The question you should ask yourself is: will one parent be able to take the children on a vacation during these times? If the answer is yes, then it is very important to request specific vacation times in the parenting plan. Remember, always include a beginning and end time.
5. Create a Transportation Plan
Don’t forget about transportation. The parenting plan must include a transportation plan. How will the children get to and from each parent’s care for visitation and custody exchange? You should also include a backup plan in case someone’s car breaks down or is unavailable for whatever reason.
The process of developing a parenting plan will usually see a great deal of back and forth between the disputing parties, which is why it is so important to enlist a skilled attorney to take your concerns before the Court and ensure all issues are resolved before the final order is declared. Ultimately, your child should be at the center of all decisions you make during the preparation of your parenting plan, just as you will be at the center of all decisions made by Fennell, Briasco, & Associates during our time representing you. Call our firm today for a free consultation at (770) 956-4030.