For Sacramento couples contemplating a divorce, no issue portends greater stress or heartache than the issues of which parent will be the custodian of the children. One method for alleviating some of the stress and heartache in resolving child custody issues is the preparation of a joint parenting plan. A parenting plan, sometimes called a “custody and visitation agreement,” is a written agreement prepared by the parents that governs the time that children will spend with each parent and how the parents will make decisions concerning the child’s health, education and general welfare. Once the plan is signed by both parents and presented to the court, the judge’s approval of the plan gives it the force of a judicial order.
In approaching the preparation of a joint parenting plan, the parents should ensure that the plan helps them provide for the child’s basic needs for love, protection and guidance, a healthy diet, adequate medical care and sufficient rest. Parents should consider the unique personalities and needs of their children. If the plan provides a visitation schedule, it should be clear and predictable. It should make allowance for visitation by each parent, where the child will spend particular holidays, and how vacations will be handled. The schedule should give the children a sense of security and predictable routine.
Every child is different, even children from the same two parents. These differences should be incorporated into the provisions of a parenting plan. Except in cases involving domestic violence, the plan should specify methods to ensure that each parent has complete and reliable information about the child’s schooling, medical care and outside interests. In the age of cellphones and the Internet, a joint parenting plan should also address how often a child may contact the other parent.
Depending upon each parent’s post-divorce financial and living situation, a joint parenting plan can become very complicated. An experienced divorce attorney can often provide assistance in ensuring that a plan adequately identifies and deals with the important issues of the child’s custody and welfare.