Child Custody Lawyer
If you and your child’s other parent are opting to co-parent in the wake of your divorce, separation, or romantic split, the court will almost certainly insist that you draw up a co-parenting agreement, also known as a parenting plan. As a child custody lawyer from a firm like the Law Office of Daniel E. Stuart, P.A. can explain, parenting plans help to set legally enforceable expectations for co-parents, in an effort to maintain consistency, transparency, and accountability within a co-parenting relationship.
Parenting plans don’t usually outline court-mandated child support obligations, as these are handed down by a separate order. However, parenting plans can address virtually any other aspect of co-parenting that a former couple wishes to set as a legally enforceable expectation. For example, most parenting plans outline when a child will reside with each parent and how holidays and special occasions will be shared or split. But, these are certainly not the only subjects that may be addressed within a parenting agreement.
Focusing on “The Best Interests” Standard
If you and your child’s other parent want to avoid judicial intervention in the setting of your parenting plan’s terms, you’ll need to work with each other (and with your attorneys, when appropriate) to come to a mutual agreement in re: your parenting plan’s language. As you draft a parenting plan proposal—with your child’s other parent or (if fundamental differences require a judge to step in) on your own, you’ll want to keep the “best interests of the child” standard in mind. This is the standard by which all child custody disagreements are resolved. Therefore, if you can justify each of the terms in your plan as in your child’s best interests, you’ll be able to easily defend your approach to the court, should you need to.
Preventing Tensions from Arising
The key to constructing a parenting plan that is manageable is to remain flexible when possible while facilitating a predictable set of expectations for all. Essentially, you will want to remember that “life happens” as you create your parenting plan, while simultaneously not leaving terms so vague that misunderstandings and/or a lack of accountability could lead to otherwise preventable tensions. For example, insisting that one parent is responsible for picking their child up from summer day camp is predictable and reasonable. Insisting that ONLY that parent can pick the child up and that the pickup must occur at 4pm sharp is not flexible enough to prevent tensions. If only the parent can pick the child up, there is no “wiggle room” allowed to make alternative arrangements if they are ill, are out of town on business, etc. With each term you set, ask yourself if it is constructively predictable without being unnecessarily inflexible.