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What is a parenting plan in a California divorce?

Virtually any divorce can be extremely stressful. And, if the couple has minor children, the level of stress about issues of child custody can reach painful levels all too quickly. Divorcing parents in Sacramento can use a legal device called, a "parenting plan" or "custody and visitation agreement," to reduce some of the stress.

A parenting plan is a voluntary agreement between the parents about how they will care for and interact with the children after the divorce has been completed. Perhaps, the most important feature of a parenting plan is that it represents the voluntary decision of the parents about how the children will be treated. Once completed, a parenting plan must be submitted to the court for approval. If the judge approves and signs the plan, it becomes an order of the court.

The court is required by statute to judge the plan according to whether it serves the best interests of the children. Parents occasionally manage to overlook this consideration. A parenting plan should ensure that each parent can provide love, protection and guidance, a healthy diet, adequate medical care and enough rest. The parents must also consider the different personalities and needs of each child and ensure that the plan suits the child. Unless domestic violence has occurred, the plan must ensure that each parent can call the child, have essential information about medical care and be informed about progress in school.

At a minimum, the parenting plan should deal with physical custody and visitation by the non-custodial parent. The plan should specify when and where parent-child visits will occur, the schools the child will attend, religion (if that is important to the parents) and medical and dental care. Any questions about a parenting plan can usually be resolved after a conversation with the mediator assigned to the case or the party's attorney.

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O'Brien Family Law, PC 

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