Parenting is no easy feat, especially when you’re divorced. Thankfully, there are several things you and your ex can do to make the transition easier for your family. Of those essential tasks is crafting a parenting plan that establishes the guidelines for both parents and, most importantly, the children.
Our family law team at Peterson White, LLP is here to ensure you know how parenting plans work and help you create a plan that benefits your needs.
What Exactly is a Parenting Plan?
Parenting plans are legally binding agreements that designate how much time each parent will have with their child and when. You can use this agreement to establish a fair, beneficial schedule that outlines each parent’s role in raising their children. These documents outline how parents will share time with their children after a divorce.
Your parenting plan typically specifies which days your children live with you and which days they stay with their other parent. It may also establish how the parents agree to handle their child’s medical treatment, extracurricular schedule, and religious studies. It should also outline special circumstances, like holiday plans and summer schedules.
How To Create A Parenting Plan
There are many options when drafting a parenting plan. If you and your spouse are on amicable terms, you can do it through mediation or under your attorney’s guidance, then legalize it after presenting it to a judge. Alternatively, those who are unable to agree on a set arrangement may require a judge to intervene.
As you draft your parenting plan, keep these steps in mind.
Step 1: Understand your child's best interests
The perfect parenting plan should uphold your child's best interests first and foremost. This should encompass the most critical aspects of their lives, including their physical and emotional needs. It’s also worth considering the child's wishes when gauging their best interests depending on their age.
Step 2: Choose a parenting schedule that works
Your parenting schedule should give everyone an idea of how much time you will spend with your child. It’s one of the most important aspects of your entire parenting plan, so figuring out a schedule that genuinely works for you is critical.
When creating a schedule, consider the following:
Distance between parents' homes
Distance from each home to their school, extracurricular activities, friends, and other relevant locations
Work schedules for each parent
Remember that these are only a few points concerning your child's best interests to examine when working out your parenting plan. Be sure to cover other matters that might be specific to your child or family.
Keep in mind that the schedule may change over time as your child’s needs grow. A younger child may do better with frequent visits with both parents, while older children may find it easier to manage less frequent switches.
Family courts recommend that parents go with a 50/50 time split, meaning that both parents have equal time with their child. For example, you may choose to go with a biweekly rotation— one week with one parent and one week with the other parent.
Understandably, a 50/50 time split does not work for all families, especially if one parent lives too far away. You may consider working out a plan for your child to spend an extended period with that parent, such as over summer or winter break.
When you’re creating the schedule, don't forget to include holidays and birthdays. It will be much easier to navigate these special dates if you already have concrete plans in place.
Step 3: Stay focused on your goals
As you work with your child’s other parent to create the perfect plan, you must stay focused on your goals. Don’t use it to get back at your ex or to prove which parent is more qualified to care for your child. Remember, your child’s best interests should take priority, which often means working together as cooperative co-parents.
Once your parenting plan is set and in motion, now is the time to continue keeping those goals in mind to help ensure your plan is successful today and into the future.
Settling on parenting arrangements after divorce isn't necessarily easy or quick, yet you can create the perfect parenting plan for your family when done right.
If you have questions regarding your child custody matter, do not hesitate to reach out to the attorneys at Peterson White, LLP. Call (855) 919-4124 to schedule a consultation today.