If you and your spouse have decided to divorce and you have minor children, the court is going to insist that you craft a parenting plan or parenting agreement if you will both continue to maintain parenting responsibilities for your children in any capacity that isn’t purely financial. A parenting plan or parenting agreement is a legally enforceable document that sets expectations for the coparenting relationship. Within the context of this document, you can get very specific about how you want to divide your parenting time after your divorce is finalized.
The Best Interests of the Child Standard
As an experienced Alameda County, CA family lawyer – including those who practice at Kempen & Company – can confirm and explain in greater detail, family law judges all across the country are required to resolve custody-related disputes by employing the “best interests of the child” standard. This means that if you and your co-parent cannot reach an agreement about how you want to divide your parenting time After your divorce is finalized, the judge assigned to your case will make their determination about whose argument should prevail based upon their interpretation of which argument best reflects your child’s best interests.
As a result, it is a good idea for you and your child’s other parent to keep this standard at the forefront of your mind while you are trying to reach an agreement about parenting time. Say, for example, you are disagreeing about how your child should spend their birthdays. Your argument is that because your child’s birthday falls on Halloween, you should take turns over who gets parenting time with your child on that day or you should agree to all spend the day together. You’re a child’s other parent argues that because Halloween is their favorite holiday, they should get your child on Halloween every year. When considering whether one argument or a totally different solution should prevail, make sure that you are focusing on your child’s best interests, not your own.
Stability and Flexibility
When considering who should have your child when, you will want to make sure that your plan is stable enough that it sets clear expectations and allows everybody to plan their lives accordingly. But, you will also want to make sure to account for the fact that life is unpredictable. You can address this balance in the phrasing of your parenting plan terms. For example, instead of saying that dad will be in charge of purchasing a plane ticket for your child over every winter break, say that dad will be in charge of transportation for your child over every winter break. This slight change in phrasing will allow for the kinds of circumstances that often crop up as life evolves. For example, say that grandma wants to pay for the ticket to take some financial burden off of dad. Or, say that dad decides to travel with child via car to visit relatives and doesn’t need to buy a plane ticket at all. Flexibility, within reason, is key to a workable parenting plan.