What should be included in a parenting plan?

If you and your spouse have decided to get a divorce, your children, if you have any, should always be your top priority. Divorce can be traumatic for children of any age, so it is important for parents to provide their children with as much stability as possible during this difficult time and in the future, as they adjust to the realities of having their parents in two separate homes. Ideally, you and your spouse will come up a parenting plan to address many issues relating to child custody, while focusing on the best interests of the children.

Every family’s plan is different, but there a few topics just about every parenting plan will address. Some of these topics are as follows

Physical custody

Parents will decide whether they will share physical custody of the children or if one parent will have sole custody. Physical custody refers to where the child will live.

Legal custody

Parents will decide between joint legal custody, where both parents will be responsible for making decisions related to the child’s upbringing, or sole legal custody, where only one parent makes the decisions.

Schedule of parenting time

Even if parents share joint custody of their children, parenting time will not likely be split 50-50 between them. Schedules will vary depending on how far apart the parents live, the needs of the child, and many other factors. The schedule should typically address parenting time during the school year, vacations, holidays, and summer/winter break.

Pick-ups/drop-offs and changes in schedule

Parenting plans should address where the children will be dropped off and when and allow for flexibility in cases where the schedule needs to be changed due to the child’s school/extracurricular activities or other reasons.

Emergencies and disputes

As detailed as the plan is, it most likely cannot account for every possible scenario. Therefore, the plan should address how emergencies should be handled, particularly emergencies relating to the child’s health. The plan should also specify how to handle disagreements and modifications to the plan.

Once divorcing parents come up with a parenting plan, they will present it to the court for approval. If parents are unable to come up with a parenting plan that serves the best interest of their children, the court will intervene and come up with a plan for the parents to adhere to. A family law attorney in North Carolina can guide you through the process of creating a parenting plan and help you present your case to the court if needed.