When parties who are parents of minor children separate or divorce, it is important that they articulate their agreement on how they will co-parent following separation or divorce.
The terms they agree to are then written in a document called a parenting plan. Parenting plans can also be included in a Separation Agreement.
Parenting plans are also helpful where the parties are in the litigation process, cannot come to an agreement and are relying on the judge to make the appropriate order.
By having a carefully thought out parenting plan, you demonstrate to the judge that you have thought through the idea of what is in the best interest of the child.
Indeed, a great parenting plan forces you to consider various aspects of the care of the child and you can plan in advance how to approach various aspects of the child’s life.
Without a plan, parties can often make merely emotional decisions without thinking of their responsibilities to the child and the challenges that follow co-parenting after separation.
A parenting plan should include/answer the following questions:
- How are important decisions affecting the child going to be made?
- Who makes the day-to-day decisions?
- Where will the child live primarily?
- Will the time be shared equally or will the child live with one parent most of the time?
- Are the times for pick up and drop offs specified to avoid confusions?
- Is the location for pick up and drop off specified?
- Does a long weekend or PA day alter time and location for pick ups and drop offs?
- How will holidays be shared?
- How will the parties exchange information regarding the children?
- Can belongings be shared between the homes or would each parent provide separately for when the child is in their home?
- How will the parents communicate with the child when he or she is in the care of another?
- If travelling with the child, what kind of notice is required.
- Do both parents have access to information regarding the child, if no, why not?
- What is the arrangement for parent-teacher nights? Does only one party attend? Do both attend together or separately?
- Can both attend school field trips? How will this be scheduled?
- How would changes be incorporated into the parenting plan?
- Is there a dispute resolution mechanism in place?These are just a few of the questions we consider at AP Lawyers in drafting a parenting plan.
1) A. v. M.
When A and M separated there was a lot of animosity between them but surprisingly within 2 months, the parties were able to agree to a parenting plan for their daughters who both had special needs.
They agreed the children would live primarily with A and M would pick them up for dinner every Wednesday and would have the girls in his care from Friday after school to Sunday at 8pm.
M started to miss visits and leave A in a bind. She needed the time to herself as she cared for the children solely at all other times and it was no easy task given their special needs. Babysitters for special needs kids are expensive and A could not afford it.
We were able to assist the parties in drafting a new agreement that considered the children’s activities, M’s schedule and A’s needs as an individual. Most importantly, we included provisions whereby M would incur the cost of babysitting if he missed his scheduled parenting time. We also included processes for making decisions regarding the girls that eliminated the conflict that existed.
2) J. v. S.
For J and S the issue was, the defacto parenting arrangement the parties defaulted to after separation was simply not working for anyone except perhaps S, who was adamant in maintaining the status quo. The unspoken concern appeared to have been child support payments S was receiving from J for their 3 children. Since J also had a spousal support obligation, we were able to show S that a change in the parenting schedule would not necessarily lead to her receiving less support payments from J.
Ultimately, with a focus on the best interests of the children, the parties were able to agree to a detailed parenting plan and a parenting schedule that worked better for the children and parents.