If you and your child’s other parent have both decided to remain active in your child’s life in the wake of a divorce or romantic split, the courts will likely require you to construct a parenting plan. Parenting plans, which are often called “parenting agreements,” set legally-enforceable expectations for co-parents. This structured agreement allows co-parents and their children to plan for the future and to have a sense of stability in re: how a co-parenting relationship is going to function.
Mutual Agreement vs. Judicial Intervention
It is important to understand that if you and your child’s other parent can reach a mutual agreement regarding the terms of your parenting plan, a judge will likely not intervene to change those terms. You can work with your lawyer to determine whether it would be better to craft a parenting plan in a mediation or negotiation setting, given your unique needs and relationship with your co-parent.
As an experienced visitation lawyer – including those who practice at May Law, LLP – can confirm, mutual agreement is not possible under every set of circumstances. If you find that you and your child’s other parent cannot resolve your differences outside of court, a judge will need to rule on the subject(s) of your disagreement. Family law judges are bound to resolve disputes between any given child’s parents according to the “best interests of the child” standard. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure to frame your position as the one that best addresses your child’s best interests.
Drafting a Manageable Parenting Time Schedule
One of the most common subjects that is addressed in parenting plans is parenting time. Parenting time refers to whenever the affected child will be spending time with either parent. This term is a far more appropriate label for time spent with one’s own children than the traditional labels of “visitation” or “custody time.”
When you and your child’s other parent are determining when your child should reside with each of you, you’ll want to keep two key words in mind: stability and flexibility. You’ll want to arrange a schedule that is stable enough that your child feels settled into a routine and both co-parents know what to expect so that everyone involved can make plans for their lives. However, you’ll also want to ensure that these terms are not so rigid that they don’t allow for “life to happen.” Building in some flexibility will allow everyone to avoid feeling on edge at all times in re: following a predetermined schedule to the absolute last letter.