The parenting plan or agreement addresses some of the most pressing issues when parents file for divorce. It involves all matters surrounding child custody, scheduling and visitation. Ideally, they can negotiate this arrangement with help from attorneys using mediation or another form of collaborative law. Still, custody and other parenting plan details are the most contentious issues in many divorces.
What it should include
The needs of each family are different, but some important details in a parenting agreement include:
- Visitation: This outlines where the children will live and when the kids are with each parent (for example, there may a 2-2-3 schedule, or weekday and weekend arrangement), the routines for pick-ups and drop-offs, or shuttling kids to and from school, sports and extracurricular activities.
- Custody: Instead of detailing where the children live, which is physical custody, legal custody involves parental rights and who makes major decisions regarding the children’s welfare and upbringing, including medical care, education and religious observance. The courts and family experts believe that it is best for the child if both parents are active, so joint custody is common even if the children spend more time with one parent. The parent must have a well-supported reason to seek sole custody.
- Holidays and vacations: Navigating the major holidays can get complicated, and family vacations, birthdays and other family traditions also must be addressed.
- Other loved ones: If the parents agree that they are reliable and trustworthy, grandparents or special aunts or uncles can be an invaluable extra set of hands for divorced parents. They can also provide a steady and positive presence during visits or sleepovers.
- Dispute resolution: There should be something about making changes to the agreement as the family’s needs change or handling disputes if they arise.
The parenting agreement is usually submitted to a judge for final approval even if they do not litigate their divorce. Parents need not file it at the same time as divorce papers, but they should do it in the same county or district. An informal hearing may follow, so the judge can determine that the parents knowingly and voluntarily agree.
The needs of each family are different
There are many different parenting agreement templates. Nevertheless, families have unique needs that are often best addressed by drafting their agreement. It helps ensure that the details work for all involved. Generally, each parent should have their attorney draft, negotiate and review details. It protects each parent’s rights and interests on this important matter.