What Is a Parenting Plan and Why Is It So Important?
A Parenting Plan or Parenting Agreement is a written agreement between parents outlining how they will raise their children after they separate or divorce. A Parenting Plan should filed with the court, and some of the agreements parents make are legally enforceable, while others are not.
A Parenting Plan can either stand on its own, or it can be part of a couple’s Marital Settlement Agreement. Often times a Parenting Plan is created by the parents while working with a Divorce Mediation attorney. It can also be negotiated for the parents by their family law attorneys. A Parenting Plan is so important in the state of California that, if parents can’t agree on a plan, the judge will make many parenting decisions for them. Whether the parents were married or not, they still need a Parenting Plan when they separate.
What should a Parenting Plan include?
The primary purpose of a Parenting Plan is to ensure that the needs of the children, including their health, education and welfare, will be taken care of when the couple separates. A carefully considered Parenting Plan can help reduce conflict between the parents by setting clear guidelines and expectations moving forward. For that reason, a Parenting Plan can cover a wide range of topics:
- • Child Custody – Who will have physical custody of the children: where will the children live most of the time and who will provide their day-to-day care?
- Visitation rights – When will the non-custodial parent be able to see the children? Will there be a consistent weekly schedule? Monthly schedule?
- Childcare and babysitting arrangements – Who will take care of the children when one parent is away?
- Health care – How will decisions will be made about dental or medical treatment? Who will go to medical appointments?
- Education – Which school district and schools will the children attend?
- Vacation and holidays schedule – How much vacation time will each parent get and when? Where will the children spend the various Holidays?
- Religion – Will the children have a religious upbringing? What activities will they participate in?
- Social activities – How will social decisions be made, such as use of a personal phone, time spent on the Internet, and time spent with friends? What is curfew time? At what age can they date?
- Diet and nutrition – What types of foods will they eat and drink?
- Romantic partners – if one parent becomes romantically involved, how will that partner be introduced?
These are just some of the many important issues to consider when negotiating a Parent Plan. It’s always better for everyone concerned, especially the children, if the parents can agree on a Parenting Plan, rather than have the court make these important decisions for them.
If you are a parent who is separating from your spouse or partner, and you need to create a Parenting Plan, please contact our office for a consultation. We provide both family law mediation as well as child custody advice. We can help you develop a Parenting Plan that works for you and your ex-spouse or partner, and most importantly, addresses the needs of your children.
Attorney Christina Sherman is a Marin County CA family law attorney and Certified Family Law Specialist, specializing in divorce, child custody and support, marital contracts and other family law issues.
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