If you share children with another parent, you will eventually need to resolve custody issues and work on the terms of a marital settlement agreement or a parenting agreement. Even in the best of circumstances with amicable former partners, having a written and working parenting plan makes life easier for parents and children.
In the State of California, sharing parenting plans should address more than simply drop-off and pick up exchanges. They should also detail expectations for holiday schedules, the children’s participation in extracurricular activities, summer plans, and many other matters.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan, or parenting agreement, is a written agreement drafted between both parents usually with the assistance of their attorneys.
It provides guidance regarding schooling, religious preferences, extracurricular activities, weekly schedules, vacations, and holidays. Every parenting plan is unique, but a detailed document is an extremely valuable tool for successful co-parenting.
Custodial Schedules in a Shared Parenting Plan
One of the most important parts of a parenting plan is the custodial schedule. This portion specifies the schedule for joint custody arrangements, ensuring there is no confusion – and a legal basis for dealing with any future conflicts.
For example, parents of older children may alternate physical custody on a weekly basis. Some parents choose a 4-3 schedule, meaning four days with one parent (often Monday to Thursday) and three days with the other parent (often Friday to Sunday) alternating. Other parents, particularly with younger children, may use a 3-2-2 schedule, a 2-3-2 schedule, or another schedule in which the child is dropped off and picked up at least once a week.
Other Details in a Shared Parenting Plan
In addition to outlining how to set up joint custody arrangements, a well-rounded parenting plan will also contain information that addresses:
- Contact preferences
- Drop off and pick up arrangements
- Guidance regarding bedtime, meal time
- Other expectations for providing structure for the child
- Vacation and holiday arrangements
- There may also be a clause regarding:
- How often the custodial parent should check in with the non-custodial parent
- What to do in the case of an emergency
- Rules about overnight visitors
Adding Clauses for Your Unique Needs
A parenting plan is what you make of it and will likely evolve as the needs of children change. You can include a variety of clauses to make sure that the plan functions for the specific needs of your family, lifestyle, and children.
Many parents choose to include clauses that cover topics such as:
- Restrictions about having other adults over in the presence of a child
- When homework should be completed
- Who transports the child to extracurricular activities
- Who pays for extracurricular activities
Usually, there is also a clause about vacations. If a long vacation would interfere with the other parent’s custody time, a clause could be added about providing advanced notice to the other parent for planning. A clause can also be integrated restricting out-of-state or out-of-country travel (such as providing a written itinerary, or even posting a bond for international travel).
A prevalent issue for many families is the debate of school selection. The selection of a school or school district can have a profound impact on a parenting plan. Ultimately, school selection is preferably a joint choice involving both parents after a frank discussion about their child’s best interests.
Can I Modify a Shared Parenting Plan?
Yes, in many cases, modifications are allowed for extenuating circumstances. Generally, it is recommended that you contact a California child custody attorney before moving forward with requests for modifying a parenting plan in court.
How to Enforce a Shared Parenting Plan
A parenting agreement is directly enforceable in court by contempt, if it has been submitted for judicial review and has been approved as an order of the court. In addition, if the other parent is not honoring provisions of the agreement, is difficult to reach, or is not attending to your child’s needs, you have legal options.
Working with an experienced attorney will help you determine the best route for moving forward and enforcing a parenting plan in court.
Learn How to Set Up a Legally Enforceable Parenting Plan Now
Developing the terms of a parenting agreement is one of the most crucial steps of the divorce and custody process.
If you need assistance drafting a parenting plan or are at a stalemate with your ex-partner regarding your child’s welfare, our custody attorneys in Sacramento can provide crucial advice and guidance. For more information about how to start a parenting plan call today or schedule a free consultation.