FAQ’s about a parenting plan or child custody agreement:
Q: What is a parenting plan or child custody agreement?
A: During a separation parents need to create a plan to decide how their children will be cared for going forward. A parenting plan is a written agreement that is used as a tool to create guidelines regarding the roles and responsibilities of each party as a parent. This plan is commonly referred to as either a parenting plan or a child custody or visitation agreement. Either way, the meaning does not change, and the main goal is always focused on the child’s best interest.
Most often the completed child custody plan is submitted to the court and this detailed written agreement becomes legally binding.
Q: What is included in a parenting plan?
A: A parenting plan / child custody agreement includes agreements among the parents, regarding the physical and legal custody of the child.
- Physical Custody or Time-share:
- Who does your child spend their time with; including but not limited to day-to-day care, weekends, holidays, and birthdays. In addition, parents should be considering not just where the children will be, but how they will get from place to place.
- Legal Custody or Decision-making:
- Who makes the decisions in your child’s life; including but not limited to their education, religion, healthcare, and extracurricular activities.
Q: What does “in the best interest of the child” mean?
A: When making a parenting plan, parents may be advised to make a plan that is in the “best interest of their children.” Topics that should be considered when addressing this question include: (a) the age of the child (b) the health of the child (c) the child’s attachment to his/her parents and siblings and (d) the child’s personality, experiences and abilities. Thus, because children differ, there is no standard plan and a plan that considers these factors should be specific to YOUR child and therefor in your “child’s best interest.”
Q: What makes a parenting plan or child custody agreement effective?
A: While a parent’s willingness and cooperation are the key ingredient to making a successful plan, there are two general tips when making a plan. To begin, providing a consistent, simple and predictable schedule can make for an effective plan that is easy to follow for both the children and the parents. In addition, the child custody or parent plan should include lots of details, including specific times, locations and arrangements. With specific details included, there is less room for disagreement down the road. When parents are collaborating in a cooperative parenting style the parent plan can be more flexible.
Q: What if the two parents cannot agree on parts of the parenting plan?
A: The best way to address disagreements among parties is to use an attorney-mediator. To avoid going into family court, an attorney-mediator can serve as a neutral participant, whose role is to help the parties resolve their differences and find a way to put the children’s interests first.
Q: Can a parenting plan be changed in the future?
A: Yes, most parenting plans or child custody agreements include modification based on changes in children’s developmental needs and parent’s circumstances. If the parent’s responsibilities need to be altered, they may return to their attorney-mediator to assess the best way handle these changes and modify the parent plan or child custody order.