There are a seemingly endless number of details to be worked out before the final divorce decree is signed. One of the most contentious, however, is often determining the parenting plan or parental agreement. More than deciding custody, although that is part of it, parenting plans outline everything to do with the couple’s children.
The goal of these agreements is to serve the best interests of the child by considering such issues as their personality, their daily and weekly schedule, where other family and friends live, and travel time between the parents’ homes. Nevertheless, successful plans also must reasonably accommodate the schedules of both parents so that they can work and/or fulfill other essential obligations.
What is in a parental agreement?
The needs of each family are unique, but there are common areas that need addressing:
- Custody: The courts generally favor joint custody and will require a reason not to choose this option. Custody gives parents the right to make important life decisions regarding the care of the children. Joint custody does not necessarily mean the children split their time evenly between parents.
- Schedule: Different families have different plans, splitting the children’s time by weekend/weekday, the 2-2-3 format, specific nights each week, or some other format.
- Holidays and vacations: This includes a schedule of alternating holidays, vacation times, summer breaks, and special events like birthdays.
- Family and friends: Time with grandparents, cousins and important friends often needs to be considered.
- Communication: This will depend on the working relationship of the co-parents but outlines the format (text, phone, email) and a format for addressing unexpected issues that arise.
- Disputes: Parents and children lead complicated lives, and parents will likely need to resolve conflicts or update the plan. A format for doing this can help keep the relationship civil.
Legal guidance often helpful
Many find it beneficial to discuss parenting agreements with a family law attorney during the divorce process. These professionals can negotiate the agreement and propose solutions for even the most contentious splits while protecting the parental and individual rights of the co-parent.