A parenting plan is an agreement that outlines a child custody arrangement. It takes into account arrangements such as who has the children on which days, who makes major decisions about matters such as the children’s education and health, and what to do if any parent’s situation significantly changes. Parents who agree on a parenting plan rather than let the court decide are often more likely to comply with custody arrangements.
Working out a parenting plan may seem like the last thing you want to do, but this approach holds many advantages. You are the people who know your children best: their needs, their schedules and their preferences. By working together to create a parenting plan that satisfies the needs of your new family structure, you can avoid the possibility of a court’s less nuanced solution. A court can only know what you tell it about your family’s particularities, but you and your children’s other parent are already exceptionally familiar with the territory. A family law attorney from Peter Blueman & Associates in Pelham, Alabama, can help you create a plan that is right for you and your family.
In general, a parenting plan should be specific yet flexible. It should create a workable system for dividing responsibilities so that the plan can function whether parents get along well or not. For example, parenting plans can establish a rotation of primary responsibilities and decisions and/or delegate specific responsibilities to each parent. A parenting plan can also include terms requiring each parent to treat the other with respect when the children are present. Finally, parenting plans should outline a process for resolving conflicts and schedule periodic reviews and adjustments — for example, after the first year and then every two or three years thereafter.
The court will review a parenting plan to make sure it fulfills the best interests of the children. Typically, courts go along with plans to which both parents have agreed.
Items That Should Be Included in Every Parenting Plan
Visitation/shared parenting schedules:
- Use a regular calendar and a school calendar to plan for school breaks, holidays and summer vacations.
- Define when holidays start and end. (Remember to include days like Mother’s Day/Father’s Day and birthdays.)
- Create a formula for anticipatable events that will work for the first one to two years of the plan’s life.
- Don’t forget to include drop-off and pick-up times and locations.
- See that both parents have access to medical records, school records, teachers and activities.
- Make sure both parents have the right to make emergency medical decisions.
Child support payments:
- Include what is covered by the payments and who gets any tax deductions.
- Designate how payment will be made.
- Make sure the paying party has adequate life insurance to cover support obligations in case of death.
- Designate which parent is responsible for costs associated with the children’s ongoing medical and dental insurance and related expenses.
- Don’t forget childcare, education and extra-curricular activity expenses and whether they will be paid directly to the provider.
- Address how you will deal with delinquent payments.
Travel details and expenses when parents live far from each other:
- Be specific if there are age-related travel concerns or other requirements.
- State any restriction on domestic or international travel.
Changes and Notifications
Make plans for how you will handle adjustments:
- Draft a set of rules for dealing with changes like special events or unanticipated business travel.
- Set up a system that gives the other parent sufficient notice when long-term plans, address, telephone number or employment changes.
- Include notice provisions for school activities, events and conferences.
- Establish how notice will be given of new childcare providers, children’s location during visitation and new relationships or people present during time with children.
And Don’t Forget…
Parents can end up back in court when they fail to plan for the future. Make sure your parenting plan contains provisions that address:
- Moves to different states
- Elective medical/dental procedures like orthodontics
- Impact of employment loss or disability
- Method and timeline for child support review
- College selection and expenses
- Adjusting visitation based on children’s ages
Speak to a Child Custody Lawyer
To ensure that you have adequately addressed all appropriate custody issues, review your parenting plan with an experienced family law attorney at Peter Blueman & Associates in Pelham, Alabama.
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