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In California, when a couple with children divorces, they must establish a Parenting Plan, also known as a “custody and visitation agreement.” The Parenting Plan is a thorough written agreement that lays out how the parents will handle time-sharing and decision-making with their children. Time-sharing relates to how much time the children spend with each of their parents, whereas decision-making refers to how the parents make decisions for their children’s education, health, and overall well-being.
Can you picture a divorce proceeding without a documented Parenting Plan? You could easily have issues with your former spouse if you don’t have a documented plan that has been approved by the court. You may squabble about who gets which day and who gets to spend the holidays with the kids. You might find yourself in a lot of disagreements, which could lead to a trip back to court for “something in writing.”
A Parenting Plan establishes who will see the children and when they will see them. It establishes how parents will handle particular situations, including child illness and birthdays, so that everyone is prepared. Parenting Plans clear up any ambiguity, allowing parents and children to understand and follow the same rules and timetable.
According to the California Courts, “your parenting plan becomes a court order after it is signed by both of you, signed by the judge, and submitted with the court.” Our advise is to create a Parenting Plan that is actually in the best interests of your children. Children of divorce, in our experience, fare far better when:
What Is Covered by the Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is a complete agreement that addresses all of the needs and concerns of children, such as:
Each child, as you are aware, is unique. A parenting plan for a 16-year-old will differ significantly from one for a toddler. If your child is autistic, disabled, or has a personality that necessitates a great deal of sensitivity and understanding, make sure to tailor the plan to your child rather than forcing your child to fit into an unrealistic or impractical plan.
Consider the case of Bethanny and Rahim, who are getting divorced. Since the birth of the couple’s five-year-old son, “Shawn,” Bethanny has been a stay-at-home mom. Rahim has spent his entire life on the road, only returning home on weekends. It wouldn’t make sense in this circumstance for Shawn to live with his father for the majority of the time, only to be cared for by a nanny he’s never met. That wouldn’t be right for Shawn.
Rather, keeping the status quo and having Shawn live with his mother, who would take him to kindergarten and pick him up after school, would make more sense. Even if Shawn’s mother had to return to work, having her look after him would be preferable to having him move in with his father and be looked after by strangers throughout the week. As you can see from Shawn’s example, parents should always do what is best for their children. They can’t just come up with a strategy that would irritate the youngster and turn their lives upside down because it “looks good” on paper.
Tips for Putting Your Parenting Plan into Action
Make sure you and your partner are both honest and practical when you sit down to write a Parenting Plan. Consider your existing circumstance. Right now, how do you deal with the kids? Who is responsible for getting them to school? Who is it that tucks them in at night? Who provides them with food? Follow these guidelines as you begin to develop the plan:
We want to impress the importance of flexibility. For example, let’s say you have a three-year-old who has the stomach flu. Instead of forcing your child to drive twenty miles to their other parent’s house, consider keeping your sick child at home with you. Of course, the age of the child and the seriousness of the illness have to be considered. If your three-year-old child merely has a cold and the other parent lives ten minutes away, there’s no reason to keep the child if they’re in good spirits and could easily travel.
Parenting Plans essentially deal with physical and legal custody. The term “physical custody” refers to where the children will live and how much time they will spend with each parent. Legal custody refers to making crucial decisions for the children’s education, medical and dental care, religion, jobs, and driving for teenagers, among other things. The ultimate purpose of the Parenting Plan is for it to be thorough while also considering the best interests of your children.
Contact our office to meet with a California divorce and child custody lawyer to learn more about developing a Parenting Plan. Our initial consultations are always free.
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