After a divorce or breakup, you may think you and your ex are on good terms. Not every split ends in fits of screaming and rage. Still, things often shift at a moment’s notice.
That’s fine if it’s just the two of you, but when you have children, that complicates matters. Even if it appears you two can coexist and co-parent in an amicable fashion, it benefits you to have a parenting plan in place.
To Start: What Is a Parenting Plan?
Basically, a parenting plan lays out all the obligations and rights of each party. This includes where the child lives most of his or her time, who has decision-making power, and things like child support, among others. If you have disputes, the courts look at this document.
Caller Question: “I recently broke up with my girlfriend of three years. We had a kid together, we have no court-ordered child support order in action right now. She’s been asking for child support and I’ve been paying her child support and keeping track the best I can with money orders.
“So basically my question is, where do I stand now for support for the child legally? I’m not getting visitation with the child because she’s upset with me.”
Danny: “Yeah that’s why you need a parenting plan for sure. That will happen all the time. You think you don’t need a divorce lawyer, and things look like they’re going okay. Then she gets mad three years later and he can’t see the kids. Or two years later and you’re not allowed back in your home. Whatever it is, I always say this, there’s no amicable divorce and you need things in writing.”
Rick: “Yeah..to answer your question of ‘where do you stand,’ you stand fine presently. If you’re good with that. And what I mean by that is, you’ve obviously been making some level of support. Keep track of it so you can demonstrate that and show you’ve had good faith and you’re a good guy.
“That being said though, because there hasn’t been a court order, there are no assurances.
You don’t have any entitlement yet, which is what Danny was talking about in the way of a parenting plan. So the real key is this: she could go to court tomorrow and seek a child support obligation. Then the question for you is, ‘Well, okay, I defend that, but I also have to go on offense with the parenting plan.’
“The key right now for you is to find a window of opportunity, where you are getting along, agree to some level of child support that somebody’s checked out for you, but also agree to a parenting plan that you get to have in your pocket for the rest of this child’s minority.”
Danny: “And visitation, because if you don’t have exactly what Rick just told you to go get she can do the, “I’m mad at you, you can’t see your own baby” thing. Everyone thinks there’s another way to do this but there’s not. There’s one way to do this properly and you’re listening to it coming from Rick Jones.”
Related Reading: I Lost My Job, Can I Get My Child Support Payments Lowered?
One of our founding partners, Rick Jones, makes regular appearances on the Danny Bonaduce and Sarah Morning Show, where he addresses family law questions from listeners. One recent caller finds himself in a sticky situation with his ex, visitation, and child support. It provides a perfect illustration of why having a parenting plan is so important.