I see it over and over again – at the time of the divorce, the parents are cooperating well and want flexibility in their parenting time schedule. Then, several years (or months) down the road, something changes and the parents start arguing. Maybe one parent gets remarried, there is a disagreement over medical treatment or school for the child, or a parent moves. Regardless of the issue, these types of disputes disrupt everyone’s lives.
Your Parenting Plan is the “master schedule” for the lives of you and your children after divorce. While it can be tailored to meet the unique needs of each family, there are some basics that should be included in every parenting plan.
Obviously, a schedule of when the child will be with each parent must be included. This should include specific drop-off or pick-up times, as well as the location for the exchange, and which parent is responsible for picking up or dropping off the child.
What happens if there is a snow day or the child wakes up sick on the exchange day, and the other parent is supposed to pick up the child from school? Your plan should include a plan for how pickups will occur if the child is not at school on the day of the exchange. Additionally, it should specify which parent is responsible to stay home with the child.
In addition to the major holidays (Christmas, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, etc.) and school breaks (Spring Break, Fall Break), you should also think about other days that are important to your family. For example, should the child spend alternating years with the parents for his or her birthday? Are Easter or Halloween important holidays to your family? Without a specific provision in place, the holiday will belong to the parent who has parenting time on the holiday. This can cause friction if a holiday consistently falls during the other parent’s time.
How long of a vacation can each parent take with the child? Should there be parenting time with the other parent immediately before and after the vacation? How far in advance of the vacation do the parents need to notify each other?
If the child is enrolled in extracurricular activities or sports, how will the parties pay for these activities? Is there a limit on the number of activities in which the child will be enrolled?
The Parenting Plan should outline methods by which the parents can resolve a dispute, preferably without having to go back to court. There are many tools available to parents, including the use of parenting coordinator, decision makers, mediation, and arbitration. You can reach more about each of this options in this article.
Residence for School Purposes
Which parent’s address will be used for purposes of school registration? Do the parties wish to have the child attend a private school, or the normally assigned public school?
Tune in next week for Part II of this series!