Creating a Successful Parenting Plan

parent and child with a calendar

One of the biggest issues in any custody case and most divorces where children are involved is the parenting plan. This is the court order that sets out who will be responsible for different parts of a child’s upbringing, and where the children will spend their time. Creating a successful parenting plan isn’t easy, but with the help of an experienced family law attorney, you can put together a plan that will work for you and your children.

What is a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a document submitted to a Pennsylvania family court judge that explains the care and custody of the child. This isn’t evidence. Instead, it’s a proposal. It suggests how you would like your child custody dispute to be resolved.

When parents are able to negotiate and find a shared parenting plan they can agree on, their attorneys will help them put together a final plan that includes everything they need to guide their lives as co-parents, and explain what to do when disagreements arise. This consent parenting plan is then submitted to the judge, who will make it part of the final order in the case.

Parenting Plan Checklist

When preparing a parenting plan, it is a good idea to work from a template that includes both the division of legal decision making responsibilities and the visitation schedule for the children. Each category can be assigned to one parent or shared, requiring parents to work together. Be sure your plan says who makes decisions about:

  • Diet
  • Religion
  • Medical care
  • Mental health care
  • Discipline
  • Choice of school & study programs
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Sports
  • Other important decisions

As for physical custody, your plan should include:

  • Where the children’s residence will be for education and insurance purposes
  • The days and times the children will be with each person
  • Where and when parenting time exchanges will happen
  • Grace periods for late pick-ups
  • How to handle transportation costs
  • Holiday visitation schedules
  • Who will attend school activities

There are other issues to be considered as well:

  • How to divide expenses not covered by child support
  • How the children will communicate with one parent during the other’s parenting time
  • What topics should not be discussed with the children (i.e. legal issues, new romantic partners)
  • What happens if a parent needs a babysitter on short notice
  • Travel restrictions, notice, or passport requirements

Finally, your plan should include the process you will take to resolve any adjustments or disputes that could come up. This might include:

  • Timing for making requests
  • Whether requests should be in person, phone, or email
  • Matters referred to mediation or arbitration

What if We Can’t Agree on a Co-Parenting Plan?

As you can see, there are a lot of moving parts in a divorce parenting plan or child custody agreement. That means there are a variety of issues you and your partner may not agree on. Often, the family law attorneys at Berman Law can help you resolve those issues through informal negotiations, mediation, or arbitration. But sometimes, things simply need to go before the judge.

In contested custody actions (where the parents don’t agree), many Pennsylvania family court judges will ask each side to submit their proposed parenting plan ahead of trial. Even if the judge doesn’t request one, your family lawyer may help you to prepare your best parenting plan ideas and submit it along with your trial documents. This allows you and your lawyer to help put things in perspective for the judge. It also gives you a place to raise issues your judge may not otherwise know about, such as:

  • A child’s special education needs
  • A parent’s transportation challenges
  • A family’s religious observances, reunions, or other traditions

The proposed parenting plan won’t explain all the reasons for your preferences, but it will give your judge a roadmap to better understand the legal issues you and your attorney raise during the child custody part of your trial.

At Berman & Associates, we know the right parenting plan can be the difference between happy co-parenting and post-judgment legal battles. We want you to walk away from your divorce or child custody case with a plan for how you and your former partner will work together (or in parallel) to raise your children. We can help you create a successful parenting plan that will reduce conflict, avoid or peacefully resolve disputes, and let you focus on being the best parent you can for your children. Contact us to speak with our Pennsylvania divorce team and see how we can help you with your parenting plan concerns.