When parties decide to get a divorce, how do they determine the parenting schedule that will be used?
The court looks at the 13 “best interest” factors when determining custody. Each of the factors is weighed in the analysis, and the court will determine who should have custody. However, when the parties first separate, there generally is one party who has been providing most of the care for the children, and that party will continue to do so until a parenting time schedule is agreed upon.
When parties decide to work together, they can come to an agreement in what is known as a “Parenting Plan.” The parenting plan outlines the basic parenting time schedule, as well as how the parents will handle holidays, communication regarding the children, and miscellaneous details such as deciding which extracurricular activities the children will participate in. The parenting plan is a useful tool because the parties are able to discuss matters while they are calm and rational, putting guidelines into place for the future when things could possibly become more contentious.
Parenting plans also allow the parties to set guidelines for how to deal with issues in the future. For example, a common problem in custody cases is a custodial parent wanting to move out of state with the child. This could include even moving across the border, even if it is a shorter distance than a move within the state. The court is reluctant to grant a move out of state when the parties don’t agree. Often, when the time comes that a party is considering a move, the tension rises regarding custody. A parenting plan would allow the parties to decide how to handle the issue of moving out-of-state prior to any parenting plan being set up.
As is with any agreement between parties, in a parenting plan the parties can set guidelines for determining issues that the court would not otherwise be able to. Parenting plans are a very useful tool in helping people be able to better co-parent.