What to Include in an Effective Parenting Plan

In California, a parenting plan is a custody or visitation agreement that describes how parents will share the rights and responsibilities of rearing a child after a divorce or legal separation, which can be drafted with the help of a San Diego child visitation lawyer. Creating an effective parenting plan with your soon-to-be ex-spouse can help you reduce the amount of stress, time and money your custody case takes. It can also keep you in control of your child custody arrangement.

Physical Custody Schedule

Physical custody, referred to as “parenting time” in California, means a schedule of how much time a child will spend with each parent. It is a detailed breakdown of what nights the child will spend with either or both parents. If the parents agree on joint or shared custody, the parenting plan must determine how they will effectively coparent. The plan must contain a parenting time schedule, custody on holidays and special occasions, family vacations or travel plans, and rules regarding visits with extended family and friends.

Legal Custody Determination 

The other mandatory item for your parenting plan is a legal custody decision. Legal custody refers to the authority of a parent to make important decisions on behalf of a child, such as medical, educational and religious decisions. Most parents who share physical custody also agree to share legal custody. Your parenting plan should include how you will handle making major decisions for your child with joint legal custody, such as how you will communicate moving forward and what you will do if you need to make a decision in an emergency.

Plans for Exchanges

Anything other than physical and legal custody matters in a parenting plan is optional. However, the more information your custody agreement contains, the more effective it will be for your family in the future. You should include plans for child exchanges, such as an agreed-upon time and place for each custody rotation. You may want to choose a place in-between you both, for example, to make sure one parent does not have to drive farther than the other.

Contact, Communication and Response Times

Your parenting plan should also include the preferred method of communication between parents, such as phone numbers or email addresses, to keep in touch and share updates about your child. There are co parenting apps available such as Talking Parents or OurFamilyWizard. A structured form of communication can help facilitate easier and more productive conversations, as well as avoid issues in the future. Include emergency protocols and proper response times, as well.

Child Care Expenses

The most effective parenting plans have breakdowns of the costs associated with caring for and raising the child. This may include essential costs such as childcare, clothing, food, school, health insurance and medical care. The plan should explain how major child-related expenses will be handled, such as jointly or with the higher-earning parent contributing more. The parenting plan should clarify exactly what any child support payments will cover.

Special Circumstances

Finally, any special considerations or circumstances that are relevant to your child should be addressed in your parenting plan. If your child has a chronic illness or special needs, for example, the plan should include details about how the child’s needs will be met, who will be responsible for medical decisions and doctor’s appointments, how these expenses will be paid, and how your family will handle custody that lasts beyond the child’s 18th birthday.

Get Help With Your Parenting Plan From an Experienced Child Custody Lawyer

Other issues that you may wish to include in your parenting plan are whether a parent is allowed to take the child out of the state or country, which parent will communicate with the child’s school or attend extracurricular activities, how unexpected scheduling conflicts will be handled, how the parents will resolve any disputes that arise, and how the child will be disciplined. For counseling on how to create an effective parenting plan in California, contact the San Diego Child Custody Lawyers at Boyd Law for a free consultation.