If you and your child’s other parent are both going to remain actively involved in raising your child after your divorce, legal separation, or non-marital romantic split has been formalized, you will almost certainly be required to construct a parenting plan at the instruction of the court and/or state law. A parenting plan helps to set co-parenting expectations in a legally enforceable way so that kids affected by their parents’ split are not subjected to unnecessary stress, uncertainty, and chaos.
Essentially, parenting plans govern the “ins and outs” of a coparenting arrangement. This document represents the “practical side” of a custody arrangement. Think of a parenting plan as a recipe. If you want to make a certain dish, you’ll need to know what ingredients to shop for and how to prepare and combine each to ensure that the dish turns out how you’re hoping that it will. Setting expectations for a co-parenting arrangement in advance helps to ensure that a child’s best interests are met and honored consistently.
Constructing Your Parenting Plan
As experienced Tampa, FL family attorneys – including those who practice at The McKinney Law Group – can confirm, there is no single “right way” to draft a parenting plan. Why? Every child’s best interests are slightly different and the needs and circumstances of every family are different. When sitting down to begin planning your parenting agreement, think about the kinds of stresses that would lead to tension between you and your co-parent. Think about the kinds of uncertainty that would stress you and/or your child out. Then, begin thinking about proactive boundaries and expectations that would address these concerns.
For example, many parenting plans have provisions that specify not only when a child will reside with each parent but also how that child will be transported between their parents’ residences. Will it be easier for everyone if you set down in writing the expectation that whomever has your child for the night will pick them up from school? Or will it be easier for you to leave some flexibility when it comes to this issue due to your unique circumstances?
You’ll want to set down expectations for everything that will reduce tension and maintain a healthy level of consistency but will want to remain flexible when possible, as rigidity can cause as much tension as too much flexibility. If you have questions about what kinds of issues you should address in your parenting plan, don’t be afraid to ask your attorney.
Modifying Your Parenting Plan
Your child’s needs and family circumstances may shift over time. You and your child’s other parent can agree to adjust the terms of your parenting plan at any time. But, if one of you wants a change and the other does not, you’ll need to make sure that a significant change in need or circumstances has occurred before asking the court to adjust your agreement, as the courts don’t like when parents bring each other into court unnecessarily.