Of all the issues which must be dealt with during a divorce, child custody may be the most emotional. This is your child, after all – there isn’t anything more important. The good news is that you will have a say in how custody is decided.
What is a parenting plan?
A parenting plan is a written agreement, between the child’s parents, detailing how custody issues will be resolved. Most custody cases will include such a plan, though not always. Sometimes the parents’ relationship is soured to the point where they cannot create a useful plan. But when the parents can work together well enough, they’re able to craft a plan which makes sense both for them and for the child. The plan is then submitted to the court.
The court is not required to accept a proposed parenting plan as-is. In the end, the primary motivation of the court is the best interest of the child. If the parenting plan is found lacking in this respect, the court will modify the plan as needed and substitute its own judgement for that of the parents. Frequently, however, if the parents take the time and effort to create a good parenting plan, the court will adopt it wholesale and include it in the final divorce order.
There are many child custody issues which will need to be addressed in the parenting plan. Among them are which parent will have primary custody and which will have visitation rights. What will the specifics be of those visitation rights? How will decision-making rights and responsibilities be handled? Where will the child reside? Will the child’s medical, dental and educational needs be satisfied? This list is not exhaustive – the details of the parenting plan will depend upon specific circumstances of the custody proceeding. But with patience and cooperation, the child’s parents can ensure that they will be the ones making decisions about their child’s future, rather than leaving it entirely to the court.