What is Involved in a Parenting Plan?
A Parenting Plan also called a custody and visitation agreement, is a set of guidelines that parents agree to as it pertains to caring for their children during and after a divorce.
The main areas of a parenting plan are related to Time-Share and Decision Making.
Time-Share - Options for Every Contingency
By Time-Share, we are talking about a schedule of when the children will be with each of the parents. For the bulk of the year, kids are in school and have a set schedule based on school and extracurricular activities. The Parenting Plan should also account for times when kids are not in school, such as:
Long Weekends, such as is the case around holidays such as Thanksgiving or Memorial Day
School closure days (e.g., teacher in-service)
Extended school breaks, such as Spring Break or Christmas Break
The Parenting Plan should include items such as specifying when the children will be with one parent or the other for Holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Hanukkah. There should also be a plan for when each parent has priority in scheduling vacations and setting deadlines for planning vacations. If the parent with the priority that summer waits too long, then it can adversely affect the other parent in planning their own vacation time or causing issues with getting time off of work.
You want to account for every possible contingency within the parenting plan. As with other aspects of the divorce, such as child support, the parenting plan is a living document. Changes can be made based on the needs of a parent, such as the loss of a job, getting a new job with a different schedule, or even changes in the types of extracurricular activities the children are involved in as they get older.
Decisions for the Major Parts of Life
The other central part of a Parenting Plan is related to Decision Making. Decision making involves the significant decisions that will directly affect the lives, health, and welfare of the children. These decisions include:
Medical Related Issues
Summer Camps or Related Activities
Changes in activities that would lead to additional expenses
Religious-based questions and activities
Decisions should never be made that will directly impact the children in a vacuum. Both parents should be involved in the decision-making process, as outlined in the Parenting Plan.
Respect the Children's Personalities and Interests
Parenting Plans should also take into account the personalities, nuances, preferences, and even the abilities or special needs of the children. Write your plans with your children in mind. Be fair to your children. Overly complicated plans that have children moving back and forth between parents too frequently or at odd times, especially if the parents do not live close to each other, can be stressful on the children. For example, if your plan had the children staying with an individual parent during the school week, but that parent lives 15 miles away from school, it can cause stress in the morning trying to get to school on time. That distance can also cause a child not to have time for homework or miss after-school activities.
Even after a Parenting Plan is in place, parents need to be flexible in their day-to-day lives. If a child is not feeling well or has a school project with a short deadline or a baseball game at a field on the other side of town, parents have to be willing to make last minute adjustments for these exceptional circumstances as to not cause unnecessary fighting or stress.
Tracy Duell-Cazes, Certified Family Law Specialist
A Parenting Plan is a complicated and in-depth agreement with many parts and aspects. If you have questions about custody, visitation, also called Parenting Time, or about any of the detailed related to a Parenting Plan, call the Law Office of Tracy Duell-Cazes, known as TDC Family Law for a free consultation at 408-267-8484.