Coming Up with a Parenting Plan

Whether parents have recently gone through a divorce, or were never married to begin with, when children enter the picture adults need to grow up fast and make sure the needs of the kids are met between both households. A parenting plan is a good idea for couples who have gotten a divorce or had children without ever getting married. A parenting plan can help avoid hurt feelings and arguments between parents, and protect children against witnessing these petty arguments. Here is some helpful information to keep in mind when developing a parenting plan.

Parenting Plan Defined

A parenting plan is an agreement between two parents regarding the amount of parenting time each will have, how decision-making regarding the children will be handled, and sets guidelines for other aspects impacting a child's well-being. These other aspects include items such as schooling, health care, childcare, religion, and overnight guests.

Consider All Aspects of a Child's Life

As alluded to above, coming up with a parenting plan requires a focus on all aspects of a child's life; among the most important to keep in mind are holidays and visitation. It is important, and respectful, to keep the schedule of each parent in mind when determining a visitation arrangement; then focus on how the holidays will work. Does one parent get first shot at each holiday? Will certain holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas) be spent at the same house each year, or will these rotate?

Of course, there are also financial considerations to keep in mind. Both parents cannot claim the children for the purposes of tax reimbursements in the same year. Will one parent get to claim the children every year, or will the ability to claim switch back and forth each year? Then there is also the aspect of child support. Does the parent making less money have primary custody? If so, child support needs to be taken into consideration.

Do You Need to have a Plan?

Having a parenting plan varies by state. In the state of Florida, for example, the courts have decided that all couples are required to have a parenting plan in place. Though not a separate statute on its own, a parenting plan in Florida is often used in place of a traditional custody agreement as it covers custody, along with many other factors.

How is a Parenting Plan Decided?

A parenting plan is decided in states such as Florida by the courts and is based upon the child's best interests. The parent receiving the most time with the child/children under the parenting plan is often the one deemed to have the best interests of the kids. Parents can, and should, work together to decide upon a final parenting plan to help avoid stress for the child.

Is there a Preference for the Mother over the Father?

The modern-day belief that mothers receive preference over fathers is little more than a myth. Beginning in the pre-industrial age in the United States, children were often cared for primarily by the mother and did chores around the home. This eventually resulted in the common law practice of the Tender Years doctrine, which dictated that children in a divorce (or unmarried) scenario were better off remaining with their mother until the "tender years" of life had passed. Today there is no preference for one parent over the other, with decisions based solely upon the best interests of the child and the parent capable of meeting those needs.