If you are considering getting divorced or separated and have children, you need to familiarize yourself with a parenting plan. A parenting plan describes how decisions concerning your child will be made – decisions such as determining when your child will be with each parent. Additionally, it involves the legal custody determination, a time-sharing schedule, holiday and vacation schedules and many other agreements about the care of and responsibility for your children. In a litigation context, once the parents and the judge sign off on the parenting plan, it becomes a court order.
Prior to a parenting plan being discussed, a determination of child custody will be made. In California, there are two types of child custody: legal and physical. When a parent has legal custody, the parent makes the health, education and welfare determinations about his/her children. Physical custody considers with whom the children are going to spend significant time with and live with. The most common type of custody is Joint Physical and Legal custody, which means that both parents share living arrangements with their children, and both make the essential decisions about their children’s lives.
Children living in two separate households present logistical challenges, therefore, and most importantly, the time-sharing of each household must be determined. This distribution of how the time is shared between the households and how parental decisions are made is written down in the parenting plan. Since every family is unique, you are encouraged to work together to develop a plan that you agree will meet the best interests of your children.
During this transformation of the structure of your family, having this written plan brings certainty and predictability. This plan ensures that both the parents and the children will know what to expect about who they are going to see, when they will see them, and for how long. This parenting plan also includes decisions about where your children will be on each of the holidays, family celebrations, and most importantly school breaks. Other important considerations are how childcare will be determined and what will happen in the event that childcare is not available. Any type of decision you can think of, from who will take your child to the doctor, or who will attend sports games, and all the transportation in between needs to be mapped out to account for the known events and strategies for the unexpected occurrences.
When formulating your plan, you should consider your children’s ages, personalities, experiences and abilities. As you know, every child is different and your plan should adjust to your children — your children should not have to adjust to your plan. In this time of turmoil, giving your children regular, consistent times with each of you for daily care, overnights, activities, schoolwork, vacations, etc. brings a sense of security and a reliable routine in their lives.
In Mediation at Peace Talks, we assist you in developing a plan that is centered on your children’s needs and best interests. We consider and address each and every holiday, vacation, birthday, school break and any other event that you feel is important to record to make sure your children spend time with both parents and your extended family. We help you to design strategies in your parenting plan to prepare for unexpected events and emergencies. We recognize that certainty and routine in a time of chaos can bring a sense of peace and well being for everyone. Contact us and learn how the best interests of your children are the focus of our work.
Diana Mercer is a Parenting Plan Mediation and the founder of Peace Talks Divorce Mediation Services; it provides mediation services, Family Divorce Mediation and child Custody. Contact Peace Talks for More information about Divorce mediation California.