As the role of having two involved parents in a child’s life is emphasized in society, lawyers and judges continue to move away from legal terms like “visitation” and “noncustodial parent” in preference of friendlier terms like “parenting plans,” “mother” and “father.” Such plans come about through the cooperation of both parents. Whether the parents work out their own parenting plan through mediation or they want a plan in place while the divorce process is ongoing, a child custody attorney can help with the process. Additionally, a child custody attorney can help identify the rights, responsibilities and obligations of the client in working out such a plan.
Co-parenting is a way for both parents to share in the responsibilities of providing care and support for their children. An effective co-parenting plan takes the strengths of each parent into consideration. Additionally, it considers the schedules of the parents and their individual circumstances, needs and preferences when spacing out parenting time.
The divorce process can be stressful on the parties involved, especially the children. Developing a parenting plan, even if it is temporary, can help provide consistency and predictability to the children. Stability helps children tremendously during this transition in their life. Parenting plans can establish time that each parent has with the children, the roles of each parent and how decisions regarding the children will be made. It may go into specific detail, such as which parent is responsible for picking up the child, transporting him or her to extracurricular activities and paying for these activities. Each parenting plan can be different as it is based on the individual needs of each member of the family and the collective unit. However, the goal is the same: to agree on a plan that is practical for the family that permits both parents to maintain an active role in their children’s lives.
Interim parenting plans may state that one of the parents will secure a new residence and that the other parent will remain in the home. The plan may indicate that although the children may primarily continue to reside in the marital home, the other parent will be provided with consistent access to the children. This may be established through further provisions, such as splitting up the week, giving one parent weekdays and the other weekends or even having the parents rotate in and out of the house instead of the children. While such plans may not be ordered by the court, they can help lay ground rules and consistency when the children need it most. They can also lay the foundation for parental agreements that may be consented to as part of the divorce or child custody decision process.
A parenting plan should be a source of collaboration between the parents, involving open discussions regarding the needs of the parents and the children. Parents who acknowledge the importance of maintaining a positive relationship for the benefit of their children can often work together with the assistance of child custody attorneys to develop a plan that works for their particular family.