If you’re facing a child custody situation, you can create a parenting plan, which is also known as a custody agreement. A child custody plan, in general, outlines how both parents will care for and provide for your children.
You create a parenting plan out of court, and then once you both agree to it, you sign it. The plan is submitted to family or divorce court, and it’s reviewed.
A plan has to be finalized and filed with the court to be official.
Sometimes, depending on the state, a judge might also require a background check on both parents before finalizing a parenting plan. If you have a lawyer, they can help you present the plan for approval.
A judge looking over a parenting plan will consider whether or not it meets the best interest of the children.
Then, once the court accepts a parenting plan, it’s a Court Order that has to be followed.
Below are some things that go into a parenting plan and should be considered.
We often think first about the custody schedule as being part of a parenting plan, but it’s not the only component.
When you’re coming up with a time schedule, be as detailed as possible and try to cover as many things that could arise as possible.
You want to think about your childrens’ social, emotional, and physical needs. A parenting plan should have your daily living schedule and should account for vacation and holidays.
Within this part of the plan, you’ll have to decide on legal custody. For example, you might share legal custody, which is joint legal custody. Or one parent may have sole legal custody. You’ll need to determine which or if both parents will have access to medical and school records.
Provide details about how you’ll manage exchanges. If you’re amicable with the other parent, you may be flexible here. If not, again, be as detailed as possible, leaving little room for confusion or arguments.
Some parenting plans will include specific guidelines dictating how each parent should do things. For example, it might include details about alcohol use around the kids, who can babysit the kids, any dietary restrictions, bedtimes, and other similar elements.
You might also include details about when the child or children can and should contact the other parent when they aren’t with them.
If one or both parents work, childcare plans might be included in a parenting plan.
You’ll have to decide who will provide the care and who will cover the costs.
There’s also something that you can include, which is the right of first option of childcare clause. What this means is that if the other parent isn’t available during their scheduled time for any reason, the other parent is offered the opportunity to be with the children first, before other childcare is sought.
How Parents Will Communicate with One Another
You may have certain ways that you can communicate with the other parent that you detail in your plan. Maybe it’s only by text and email, especially if phone or in-person conversations tend to get heated.
You’ll include details for times when your kids aren’t in school. For example, in the summer, the child might be with the parent who has less parenting time during the school year.
With that in mind, you’ll also want to include in your parent plan how travel should be handled. For example, how far in advance should one parent provide notice if they’d like to take the child or children out of town?
Your plan can include information on child support and other financial considerations. It will include which parent will claim the child as a dependent for tax purposes and how reimbursements should be handled.
Specific expenses that you might include in a plan include childcare, clothing, medical , and insurance, and the cost of extracurricular activities.
Creating a parenting plan can be a good way to remain in control rather than having a judge decide for you. With that in mind, for the court to accept it, it does have to comply with custody guidelines in your state.
If parents live in different states, one state will be the one that guides the parenting plan requirements, and you have to follow those laws.
Eventually, if your parenting plan needs to be changed, you will once again have to go through the courts to get it approved.