Also known as a parental plan, a parenting plan is often used in cases involving divorce, separation, annulment, and custody. This type of plan is an agreement between parents that details the schedule as well as the duties and responsibilities of each in the rearing of their children.
A parenting plan typically includes important issues such as:
- A schedule outlining how much time and when each parent will spend with the child.
- The duties and responsibilities of each parent.
- Parental rights, which include who will be responsible for making important decisions ( e.g., education, religion, medical) for the child, as well as rights regarding child support, custody, and visitation.
- Rights of other parties, such as grandparents or stepparents.
In a parenting plan, parents can negotiate with one another and include any other issues that may be pertinent to their child, so long as they can agree upon the terms. Once a plan is written out, a judge will use the “best interest of the child” standard, and base their decision on the needs of the child.
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Usually, the parents come up with a parenting plan outside of court, or as a result of formal court proceedings. If they are able to agree outside of court, they may then present their plan to the judge for approval. Once approved, it is enforceable by law. In cases where the parents cannot come to an agreement, the court will issue a plan for them.
If a parenting plan is signed, witnessed, and approved by a judge, it is generally enforceable. Plans that are informal, and not written, may not be enforceable. As with any contract, it is always a good idea to put it in writing.
Disputes are not uncommon when it comes to parenting plans. Sometimes, parents can’t agree on certain issues, but fortunately, the plan may be modified to better accommodate all parties involved. Disputes that may arise include:
- Visitation schedules – Coming up with a plan that works well with one another’s daily schedule can be difficult and frustrating. Nonetheless, it must be done and agreed upon.
- Child support amount – The parent claiming child support may be required to show supporting evidence of the amount he or she is requesting.
- Violations of parenting agreements – It is not uncommon for a parent to violate the terms of an agreement, even if it was court ordered. If this occurs, penalties can be severe, including criminal charges.
Parenting plans can be difficult, especially when cooperation between parents is less than stellar. A child custody attorney can help you decide what type of plan works best for you and your child, assist you in determining a fair and balanced distribution of duties and responsibilities, and can also help you prepare evidence in support of child support payment amounts.