When you have children, even if you divorce, your ex is most likely going to remain a part of your life. A lot of couples are able to put their differences aside and effectively co-parent. They find a way to make it work. But even then, disputes often arise, and that’s when parenting plans become so important.
Following a divorce, or even in cases when a couple never married, parenting plans lay out the custody arrangement. They are the roadmap. These documents say which parent has the kids on holidays, during summer break, on weekends, and more. They also spell out who holds the decision making power.
Ideally, you won’t often have to refer to the parenting plan. Things come up in life and it’s difficult to regiment every moment. Many couples are flexible and amenable, able to adapt to the everyday chaos parenting brings.
That’s great. When it works. However, problems occur when one parent takes advantage of an informal situation, or when they don’t live up to their end of the bargain. This is where parenting plans become so vital. Think of it as an insurance policy, you hope you don’t ever need it, but you’re glad you have it when you do.
Rick Jones, one of our founding partners, regularly joins the Danny Bonaduce and Sarah Morning Show, where he takes family law questions from listeners. One recent caller is finding out first hand just how important parenting plans can be.
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Listen to the Call Below
Caller: “I have a daughter who’s five now and her mother and I were never married. I keep hearing people talk about parenting plans, so how do I get one? So far she and I have just kind of winged it. It’s been fine, but recently she’s becoming more and more flaky.”
Rick: “I’m so glad for this call. We do have a call similar to this just about every other time I’m on, but the reason why is that it’s so important. You can imagine during the course of our work-week how many times we get calls like this.
“Ultimately, the parenting plan is the rule book, the custody rulebook. Hopefully, it’s actually done by agreement. Now the best rule books are ones you put in a top-drawer and really never look at because you don’t have a dispute.
Related Reading: Physical Custody Vs. Legal Custody
“But, just like the heat you’re starting to feel, when it does come, you really need that rulebook. If you don’t have one in place, you call an attorney and then they say, ‘Yeah we can get you into court in X amount of days, it’s going to take a little bit of time.’ Your window right now hopefully is open to discussing this with her.
“Say, ‘Hey, you know what, let’s formalize this. Let’s get a parenting plan in place,’ and you can do it by agreement.
“What it really comes down to, basically this parenting plan is almost a calendar. It talks about what’s going to happen every day of the year. What the summer schedule looks like, the regular school schedule looks like, the winter vacations, holidays, etc. Those are the things to agree on as well as decision making.
“[What] I recommend to you is to get an example [of a] parenting plan. You can pull that off the internet, take a look at it, talk to her, and when you have an agreement, give us a call.”
Related Reading: Parental Alienation