If you and your child’s other parent are navigating a romantic split (divorce, legal separation, or non-martial relationship dissolution) and your children are not yet adults, the court and/or state law will likely insist that you and your child’s other parent draw up a parenting plan. Just like child custody division itself, you and your co-parent can come to a mutual agreement about the terms of your plan and have the court “sign off” on it or—if you have fundamental differences about how your parenting plan is to be structured—the court will intervene and make a ruling based on what it perceives the best interests of your child to be.
An experienced attorney can help you to draft your parenting plan and to work with you in a mediation or negotiation setting to—ideally—help you and your co-parent avoid having a judge decide the direction that your co-parenting arrangements must take.
What Exactly Is a Parenting Plan?
As experienced members of a Tampa, FL family law group – including those who practice at The McKinney Law Group – can clarify in greater detail, a parenting plan helps to set expectations for the co-parenting relationship in a legally enforceable manner. Meaning, that anything you choose to clarify in your parenting agreement could be enforced by a judge if the other party doesn’t honor their commitments.
Most of the time, parenting agreements address when a child will reside with each parent, how transportation between houses will work, and how holidays and special occasions will be divided. However, you and your co-parent can decide to include other provisions as well. From whether both parents need to weigh in before a child can get a significant hair cut to whether the child will be required to attend religious services, you and your co-parent can decide what should be addressed in this document and what subjects are better left to a mutual decision process that is not legally enforceable.
How to Make Your Parenting Plan Work for Your Family
It is important to be flexible whenever possible—with the caveat that kids and families tend to thrive when core “operations” are consistent. Meaning, your child may start to feel very insecure if they are not sure of where they will be staying on any given night, who will pick them up from school, etc. Setting reasonable expectations (with wiggle room when appropriate) will help everyone involved to know what to expect and how to plan.
It is also important to consider co-parent communication when drafting your parenting plan. Do you want to be able to talk to your child every day that they aren’t residing with you? Do you feel that it would be in your child’s best interests for you and your co-parent to maintain a family calendar online or to have bi-weekly phone check-ins about how your child is doing? To make your parenting plan work for you and your family, think hard about what expectations and boundaries will help you function at a high level in a manner that is not unnecessarily stressful.