If you are getting a divorce, determining child custody arrangements may be the most difficult part of the entire process. Parents may benefit from meeting with their respective attorneys and each other to come up with a parenting plan outside of court. Once parents reach an agreement, they will present it to the court for final approval.
Developing a parenting plan, or child custody and visitation agreement, can be challenging, even for parents who get along. Your plan should address:
- Physical custody: When will the child be with each parent? Address weekdays, weekends, holidays, and summer/winter vacations. You should also address how the child will be transported from one parent’s home to the other and which parent will be in charge of which activities.
- Legal custody: How will parents make decisions relating to the children (e.g., education, religion, or medical decisions)?
As you create your parenting plan, you should consider your child’s specific traits and needs. California courts suggest considering:
- How to meet your child’s basic needs.
- Your child’s ages and abilities, and their relationships with other family/community members.
- How to manage your child’s schooling, extracurricular activities, social engagements.
- How to provide a consistent routine, while staying flexible.
You should also include terms that specify that both parents have the right to information about the child (unless there is violence in the household). There should also be terms specifying how often parents will get to communicate with the child when they are not together in person and how to resolve disputes between parents.
It may not be easy to work with your ex to draft a parenting plan. A family law attorney in your area can help make sure that the best interests of your child remain the number one priority during the divorce and custody determination process.