Important Considerations When Creating a Parenting Plan After Divorce
California parenting plans contain information about how much time a child spends with each parent and the ways in which parents make decisions about important issues such as education and medical care. In some cases, children spend time with both parents, and in other cases, only one parent has physical custody. Although the judge who hears your case has the final say, the court prefers that parents create a parenting plan, more formally called a custody and visitation agreement, that works for everyone involved.
Creating a parenting plan that makes everyone happy and keeps the best interest of your child in mind can be difficult amidst the emotional rollercoaster of the divorce process. Yet, it’s a task you must complete if you have children; and, the judge will typically not sign off on an unfair agreement. Here are some important things to consider when you create your parenting plan.
Types of Visitation
Courts in California, and every other state, base their decisions on the notion that children benefit from having contact with both parents. The exact circumstances of your divorce and other factors can influence the extent to which one parent spends time with a child. California law recognizes three main types of parental visitation:
A scheduled visitation is a formal, written schedule that includes the exact dates and times each parent will spend with their children. Some couples prefer scheduled visitation because it doesn’t leave room for interpretation. These parenting plans help prevent conflicts about holidays, birthdays, weekends, and other special dates because the plan is already complete.
Parenting plans that include reasonable visitation do not have a formal schedule. Instead, you and the other parent need to work out the schedule on your own. This type of visitation works well if you and the other parent have an amicable relationship. On the other hand, without specifics, you open up the door to conflict, especially if your co-parenting relationship is weak.
In cases where one parent has substance abuse issues or accusations of abuse or neglect have been made, the court will require supervised visitation. Ultimately, the judge who hears your case will decide to enforce supervised visitation if your child’s safety and well-being might be at risk. Your attorney can advise you on whether you should ask for supervised visitation in your custody agreement.
Other Issues to Consider in Your Parenting Plan
Your visitation schedule or arrangement is among the most important aspects of your parenting plan, but other issues come into play too. Your parenting plan needs to include the ways in which you and the other parent will make decisions about your children. Some of this will hinge on custody. If you have full legal custody of your child, you have the legal right to make all decisions. Yet, many divorces result in joint custody, which requires a more thorough plan that covers a multitude of issues beyond visitation schedules. In fact, some issues below might impact the type of visitation schedule you choose.
- Sleepovers. Does your child have permission to sleepover at a friend’s house or a family member’s house? In the case of young children, does the other parent need to offer you the first chance to take the children before letting another family member or babysitter watch them?
- Transportation. How will your children get to where they need to go? Will they ride the bus to school or will you need to pick them up and drop them off each day.?
- Childcare. Who watches your children when both of you are unavailable? Is there one or more family members who will provide childcare? Does your child go to a daycare center during the day?
- New dating partners. What rules do you and your ex agree upon with regard to new partners? Does the other parent need to meet the partner? Do you need to place a time limit before introductions? Can new partners spend the night when one parent has the kids? When a relationship with a new partner gets serious, what role will they play in your child’s life?
- Pick-up/Drop-off. How will you transfer your kids? Will you pick-up and drop-off at the others’ residence or will you meet in a neutral location?
- Discipline. What methods do you agree are appropriate discipline for your children? Will you discuss discipline after an incident or will the parent who has the children make the call?
- Sleeping arrangements. Does each child have their own space at both homes? Do they share with a sibling?
- Cell phone and internet use and access. Does your child have a cell phone? If so, what are the rules about cell phone use in both homes, and are they consistent? Does your child have access to the internet and what are the limits?
- Parent-child communication. Is it okay for the other parent to call or text the children when you have them? What boundaries do both of you find agreeable? This is especially important when children are young and rely on an adult to use a cell phone.
- Extracurricular activities. Will your children play sports or join other after-school activities? Who is responsible for ensuring they get to practice? Do your children play instruments or take any other lessons? Who is responsible for concerts, open houses, and other related events?
- Religious activities. Do your children attend religious services now and will they continue after divorce? Will both of you ensure they participate in religious activities or will it all fall on one parent?
- Mental health services. Does your child need therapy? Who will take him or her and make decisions about care?
- Medical and dental care. Who will take your child to get the medical care they need? Who takes time away from work to care for a sick child? Who takes your child to dentist or orthodontist appointments?
Contact a California Child Custody Lawyer for Questions About Your Parenting Plan
Creating the right parenting plan during a divorce can be difficult, especially if your divorce is highly contentious. If you are going through a custody battle and need guidance with your custody plan, it’s in your best interest to contact an experienced child custody attorney who can help. Contact Pedrick Law Group today online or at 818-325-3934 to discuss your questions about custody and creating a parenting plan.