Your attorney will guide you through the basics of divorce, from filing a petition for dissolution in the Stockton court system to negotiating a property settlement with your spouse. Some things, though, are really personal—including how you set up your parenting plan so your kids get what they need from each of you.
As family law attorneys practicing in Stockton, we help parents from all walks of life through the difficulties of divorce. Many of our clients need help with child custody, which can be one of the toughest parts; both parents want what’s best for their kids, but they often don’t see eye-to-eye on what that is.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan, which is also called a custody and visitation agreement, is a written agreement between two parents that describes time-share and decision-making.
What is Time-Share in a Parenting Plan?
Time-share is a specific schedule that outlines when the children will be with each parent. For example, one parent may pick up the kids from school every other Friday and return them to school on Monday morning; one parent might pick up the kids from school each day except Wednesdays, when the other parent does it.
What is Decision-Making in a Parenting Plan?
Decision-making is a specific outline that shows how each parent will make decisions about what’s best for their children, including health, education, and general welfare.
Is a Parenting Plan Legally Binding in California?
Once you and your spouse have developed a parenting plan and signed it, the judge will sign it (as long as it’s fair and serves the kids’ best interests rather than yours). It then becomes a court order.
How to Develop an Effective (and Good) Parenting Plan
It can be very difficult to work with your spouse, especially when you’re in the middle of a divorce. However, your children need you to advocate for them—and they need both parents to provide their love, support, and time.
Your parenting plan should deal with:
- Physical custody, such as where your kids will spend each night, where they’ll be during the holidays, and which parent is in charge at which times
- How the kids will travel between parents
- Which parent gets the kids on school breaks, including the summer
- Legal custody, including which decisions each parent can make alone and which decisions need to be made together
- Schools and child care
- Medical and dental care
- Emergency care
Special Considerations When You’re Developing a Parenting Plan
When you’re outlining your parenting plan, make sure it meets their needs. Your lawyer will advise you to consider:
- Your kids’ specific activities. Do they participate in sports leagues, piano lessons, or community activities?
- Your kids need a regular schedule so they can depend on it; they’re going through a lot of changes right now, so consistency (where you can provide it) is very important.
- Your kids’ needs. Every child is different, which is why it’s so important for you and your spouse to figure out what’s best for yours together.
Your parenting plan can also include stipulations that say each of you is entitled to:
- Information about the kids
- Access to the kids through phone calls, Skype or FaceTime
- Access to the kids’ school and medical records
- Access to each other’s phone numbers, addresses, and other contact information so you can communicate about the children
A good parenting plan is specific enough that you both understand your responsibilities and can both stick to it. However, you should also build in some flexibility; what if one of your kids is sick, for example, and doesn’t feel like traveling to your ex’s house for the day? What if a special school event comes up, or what if Grandma and Grandpa come to town (or you go to Grandma and Grandpa’s)? Building in room for special circumstances will make sticking to your parenting plan much easier, and when it’s easier for you, it’s easier on your children.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Developing a Parenting Plan?
We’ve helped many people through divorce, and we can help you, too. As family law attorneys serving Stockton and the surrounding communities, we have extensive experience dealing with parenting plans and other divorce issues.
Call us at 209-910-9865 to let us know what you’re going through. We’ll begin developing a strategy that gets you and your children the best possible outcome—and we’ll give you all the support you need during this difficult time.