The Role of Parenting Plans
A parenting plan spells out the terms and conditions of custody and visitation when parents divorce or separate.
A parenting plan spells out the terms and conditions of custody and visitation when parents divorce or separate. The plan allows parents to avoid conflict arising from divorced parenting and its responsibilities. Without explicit agreements about these responsibilities, disputes often arise, and costly litigation may be the result. When parents do not comply with the parenting plan, the court is then forced to make decisions about the children's lives and create a parenting plan of its own. Parents can consider including binding arbitration in their parenting plan. In this routine, an arbitrator makes the same decisions that a judge would, in order to avoid the courts in the future.
When the parents agree to the terms and conditions before a court hearing, the agreement is called stipulated. The court can approve the stipulated parenting plan without a hearing, and judges normally encourage parties to reach an agreement, rather than go to hearing.
Most states statutorily require that court-ordered parenting plans set forth the minimum amount of parenting time and access a non-custodial parent must have. A court order without a minimum time stipulation can lead to an appeal in a higher court.
The parenting plan is usually a part of the divorce order. Parents can later modify the existing parenting plan by filing a new request with the court when circumstances, such as parent relocation, child abuse issues, or health problems may arise.
In most jurisdictions, the standard short-distance visitation plan consists of alternating weekends and some holidays. Some medium and long-distance parenting plans may allow consolidated visits that reduce traveling. Parents can normally make variations to the state standard parenting plan or develop a different customized plan if the judge approves the changes.
At or around the age of 13, depending on the state, the child may have a right to testify in court about custody and parenting plan arrangements.
Parenting plans can also include various restrictions and general notes about parents' contact with the child, like regulation of safety issues, medical care, sports attendance, and many more. Sometimes, a parenting plan has a restriction on a parent’s relocation, or a waiver from state rules allowing parents to relocate without request.
Some topics, such as the amount of child support and health insurance, may be regulated by state law. Others require that the spouses negotiate. Thus the law and their decisions come together to form a parenting plan. These issues include the following:
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