In some divorce cases, one parent may receive full custody of the couple’s children if the court deems the other parent a threat to their safety or if living with the other parent would not be in the children’s best interest. These situations usually arise when one parent commits a crime or has a history of abuse. However, if both parents agree to the divorce and have no criminal history or any record of behaviors that may diminish their children’s quality of life, a court will most likely grant joint or shared custody of the children.
Most joint custody agreements are fully laid out in what is known as a parenting plan. A parenting plan is meant to ensure that both parents know what is legally expected of them and what they can expect concerning future custody. Without a parenting plan, scheduling disputes are likely to arise. Children thrive much better when both parents are actively involved in their lives and do not argue over custody. Developing a parenting plan is a great way to ensure that both parents play a role in the children’s lives and minimize the potential of future custody agreements.
How to Develop a Parenting Plan
The most important thing to remember about creating a parenting plan is that it should be tailored to your children and their unique needs – not the other way around. Divorce is hard enough on children, so any parenting plan that completely upends a child’s typical routine or way of life can be traumatic. It’s important to consider your children’s medical needs, academic situation, abilities, and social life when developing a parenting plan, aiming to create one that interferes with their normal life as little as possible.
If both parents have proven themselves to be loving, attentive, and law-abiding with no history of abuse, a parenting plan should strive to accomplish the following:
- Both parents should be able to play equal roles in their children’s lives. It’s vital for parents to take an active part in a child’s education, social life, and education.
- Both parents must be able to communicate with their children and stay informed about their lives. For example, if a child suffers an injury or becomes seriously ill while under the supervision of one parent, that parent should try to contact the other parent within a reasonable time.
- The plan should include times for visitation and clearly outline when each parent will be supervising the children. For example, one parent may have the kids for a week. The other parent takes them for the following week. The parents will typically outline how to handle special occasions such as holidays, birthdays, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, school functions, and extracurricular activities.
- A parenting plan will also take the parents’ living situations into account. If one parent moves out of the area for a new job or to find a new living space after a divorce, the distance between the parents’ homes will need to be considered.
Essentially, a parenting plan will cover the details concerning physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody involves how the children live from day to day and how they spend their time. Legal custody involves all major decisions made for the children, such as medical care, religious practice, and schooling.
A parenting plan won’t follow a specific format. Every family will have unique concerns, so it’s important to consult with someone when the time comes to develop a parenting plan. An attorney experienced in family law will help make the transition to joint custody as smooth as possible and keep the children’s best interests in mind throughout the entire process.