A parenting plan (or custody and visitation agreement) provides information about how you and your children’s other parent will make decisions for and spend time with your children. Having a clear parenting plan can help avoid miscommunication and misunderstandings. If conflicts do arise, the agreement can serve as a guide for resolving them.
Your parenting plan should be tailored for your family’s specific needs and address issues that might come up concerning legal and physical custody. Above all, the agreement must consider your child’s best interests and what’s necessary to protect their well-being, growth, and development.
At Claery & Hammond, LLP, our family law attorneys help clients through child custody matters, pursuing amicable outcomes. Schedule a consultation with a member of our Los Angeles team by calling (310) 817-6904 or submitting an online contact form today.
What Is a Parenting Plan and When Is It Needed?
A parenting plan is a document discussing stipulations for when a child or children will be with each parent and how the parents will make decisions concerning their child or children. It is needed when two people share a child but the individuals are not together.
The parenting plan should cover matters and situations that might be encountered when you share legal and/or physical custody of your children. Depending on the family dynamics, the agreement can be general, giving you both broad discretion on things such as decision making and visitation, or specific, providing detailed schedules and instructions each parent must follow.
That said, the primary concern of any practical parenting plan is safeguarding the best interests of the children. The visitation schedule and decision-making guidelines should ensure that your children’s basic needs (i.e., food, clothing, shelter, medical care, parental guidance) are provided for.
What Things Should We Think About When Making a Parenting Plan?
Parents are encouraged to work together to develop a parenting plan. This cooperation and communication allows them to make decisions that account for the unique needs of their children and themselves. Absent a mutual agreement, a court will decide on custody and visitation, which might not be what’s best for the family’s circumstances.
Generally, when deciding on the stipulations of a parenting plan, you may consider:
- How old your children are,
- How well your children get along with each other and their parents,
- The experiences and special needs of your children,
- The geographic location of your and the other parent’s home,
- The work schedules of you and the other parent,
- Your ability to work together with the other parent.
More specifically, a well-established agreement should cover legal and physical custody matters.
Considerations for Shared Legal Custody
If you have shared legal custody of your children, you both have the right and responsibility to make decisions about important facets of your children’s lives. (Only one parent is the decision-maker when sole legal custody is granted.) You don’t have to agree on everything, and you each can make decisions on your own, provided they do not conflict with any other legal orders.
A parenting plan addressing legal custody can stipulate when you can make decisions yourselves and when you must consult with each other before acting.
Aspects of the children’s lives you may consider discussing and agreeing on include:
- Enrolling your children in or withdrawing them from school,
- Signing them up for extracurricular activities,
- Practicing religion,
- Choosing a doctor, dentist, or other healthcare professionals,
- Beginning or ending mental health services, and
- Traveling out of the state or country.
Considerations Concerning Physical Custody
Physical custody concerns the time the child spends with you and their other parent. It can be sole or joint. Even if joint custody is awarded, the children won’t necessarily have equal time with both of you. One parent may have the child more often than the other. The parent who has the children for briefer periods is typically allowed visitation.
A parenting plan should contain visitation arrangements. These can be detailed, precisely indicating the dates and times you each have your children. Or they can be more general, allowing you to decide what works best for you, depending on the situation.
Some of the things to consider when developing a specific or general visitation schedule include, but are not limited to:
- Which parent has the children on weekdays and weekends,
- What holidays the child will spend with you and their other parent and whether the schedule should alternate from one year to the next,
- How and where pick-ups and drop-offs will occur,
- Who the child spends special occasions (e.g., birthdays) with,
- How many days or weeks you and the other parent can take the child on vacation and how often,
- What happens if the child has practices, games, recitals, or other extracurricular events during either parent’s parenting time,
- Who provides day-to-day care,
- Which parent the child has overnight stays with,
- What happens if one parent does not show up for visitation exchanges or can’t exercise visitation.
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Claery & Hammond, LLP delivers compassionate legal representation to individuals in and around Los Angeles. We take the time to get to know our clients and their unique circumstances to pursue practical solutions for them.
To speak with us about your case, please call (310) 817-6904 or contact us online.