Essential Tips for Making a Parenting Plan Work
Parenting Plans That Work. (or How to Minimize the Need for Court and Attorneys)
Parents can minimize, if not eliminate, the need for attorneys and the court system by creating a good parenting plan. Parenting plans created by parents also address the specific needs of the family. To create a parenting plan that works for your family, including the following:
- Details! Details! Details!
- Parenting days and times. Certainly, as the schedules of you, your child and your ex-spouse become more complicated, there will be disagreements, time conflicts and other issues affecting parenting times. Because of this reality, many parents are tempted to not use a parenting schedule or to create a vague schedule. These parents often end up needing an attorney and/or the court’s assistance to later create a working parenting schedule. If your family feels too restricted by a set schedule, feel free to include language like “if we cannot agree, then our schedule will be _______”. Parents should also keep in mind that children adjusting to two homes greatly benefit from certain and regular parenting time. This certainty provides the children with security when they are going through a lot of adjustments.
- Where will exchanges occur? While most parents choose exchanges at each parent’s residence, feel free to get creative. Consider exchanges at school or daycare, or at a midway point. Also, be sure to consider issues such as traffic flow, each parent’s work schedule and distance from home, and the child’s extra-curricular activities.
- How will decisions be made about your child’s school location, medical care providers and treatment? As all parents know, there is a myriad of on-going decisions which must be made about their child’s education, medical care, and extra-curricular activities. In California, decision-making is referred to as “legal custody”, which the parents share unless they, or the courts, decide otherwise.
- Vacations, holidays and traveling outside of the country. Discuss with your co-parent the length and frequency of vacation time for each of you (including “staycations”) and how you will share holidays. You should also work out agreements about advance notice and any concerns either parent has about travel outside of the US.
- Religious practices. Each parent has a right to involve a child in that parent’s religious life. Each parent also has a right to not involve a child in religious practices. Either way, an effective Parenting Plan will accommodate each parent’s preferred practices, or the choice to not have religious practices.
- Co-parenting Practices. While not essential, co-parents often benefit from agreements about how they will work with each other. Consider including in your Parenting Plan communication practices both parents can live with. Examples include the preferred means of communication (email versus texting) and how soon each parent will respond to the other’s communication, considering the topic, work schedules, and other commitments. Most parents find agreements to use one form of communication and for responses “within ___ hours” reduces uncertainty and simplifies communication.
If you and your co-parent cannot work out basic agreements for the parenting plan, an attorney will be able to guide you through the court’s process to set a parenting plan through orders. If your co-parent is inflexible, unreasonable or communication is just too difficult, contact an attorney as soon as possible.