As with any court proceeding, it is beneficial if you and the other party can agree on a plan beforehand. It is even more important for a divorcing couple to agree on a parenting plan. A parenting plan is a document that outlines how the children will be raised when the two parents do not live together. The plan allows parents to resolve disagreements and document what you do agree on when it comes to parenting your children. The plan is included with your petition for divorce and includes a visitation schedule, custody statements, and how you plan to resolve disagreements. If you don’t do it, the family courts will do it for you.
The first thing that the court looks for when looking at a parenting plan is how you will create a stable, supportive environment for the children. Plans that best meets the children’s physical and emotional needs will be well received by the courts. The more detailed and thought out, the better.
Good Parenting Plans Include:
- Visitation Schedule – Under normal circumstances, the courts want to see that the children are spending ample time with both parents. Therefore, you plan needs to show a regular parenting time rotation pattern. If that will not work due to work schedules or other uncontrollable circumstances, then you will want to make sure the visitation plan includes longer amounts of time when that parent can see the children. Where will you pick-up and drop-off the children for visitations? Remember, in order to avoid involving public school personnel and to avoid disruptions to the educational atmosphere in public schools, Arkansas Code Title 9. Family Law 9-13-104 prohibits transfer of a child between the child’s custodial parent and noncustodial parent on the real property of a public elementary or secondary school on normal school days during normal school hours. This code does not prohibit one parent from transporting the child to school and the other from picking up at the school if prior approval has been obtained from the school’s principal.
- Activity/Event Schedule – With children comes many school and extracurricular activities. Your plan should include a way that you will communicate these things to one another. It is easier than it has ever been to create a means of sharing calendars with one another, so everyone is in the loop avoiding excluding one parent from these opportunities.
- Expenses – You need to decide how child-related expenses will be covered. This should include things like unexpected medical expenses, extracurricular activity fees like dance tuition and costumes, sports fees and equipment costs, and other unforeseen expenses.
- Major Decisions – Although one parent may have primary custody, normally both parents will want to be involved in major decisions regarding the children. This will include, but certainly not limited to, education, religious practices and health care.
- General Parenting Practices – Remember the more detailed the plan is, the better. Anything you deem important to raising your children should be included---curfew, dating, grade expectations, discipline, driving, buying a car for the child, just to name a few. When your child is small, some of these things may not be at the forefront of your thought-process, but the more that can be determined early on, the better.
Now that you have your plan, you will want to leave a little room for flexibility. Life happens, things change, and unexpected occurrences take place. Yes, you should follow your plan as closely as possible, after all that is why you created it, but do not be so staunch about it that you become hard to work with.
Kevin Hickey Law Partners has years of experience assisting couples in writing parenting plans. We have helped couples write plans together or we have worked individually with a parent if the couple’s relationship is not amicable. It is ideal if we can assist the couple together, since this is only the beginning of parenting decisions you will have to make together throughout raising your children. However, if a couple cannot work together, each parent will submit a plan separately. Either way the more detailed your plan is, the better it will be. It is difficult to think of every detail that you will encounter when raising children, let our experience help you with the details.