Developing An Effective Parenting Plan
In recent years, legal professionals have worked hard to ensure that the elements of a divorce are ever-evolving and are built to change with new trends. You might have heard numerous phrases in the past when discussing child custody: legal custody, sole custody, joint custody, physical custody and so on. Now you might also be hearing the phrases parenting time and parenting plan. At Abney Law Office, LLC, our experienced attorneys are prepared to answer your questions about the legal process and provide an honest assessment of what you might face.
Child custody matters may be filed as a complaint for custody (if no prior marriage), as part of a divorce, or as a motion to reallocate parental rights (a post-decree motion filed after a prior custody order has been issued). The court, in determining custody and visitation, will focus on what is best for the child or children at issue. In addition to what is best for the child at issue, the court will consider whether the parent who already has custody is unfit.
What Are Shared Parenting Plans?
In the past, courts would strive to arrive at a compromise for joint custody. This would allow both parents to have access to the child, and vice versa. The courts currently refer to this as a shared parenting plan. During the divorce process, the parents will work together to determine a compromise that meets their needs and the emotional and financial needs of the children. Many people oppose the shared parenting plan because they misunderstand the nature of the plan itself. Just because you have a shared plan doesn’t mean that you will have no child support or equal parenting time. It is the goal of a skilled family law attorney to guide you through this process to reach the best compromise possible.
The court may order sole legal custody to one party or shared parenting to both parties. Parents awarded sole legal custody have the authority to make parenting decisions for the child. Parents awarded a shared parenting plan must make all major parenting decisions jointly. Under a shared parenting plan, one parent is designated the “residential parent.” The residential parent designation typically determines the school district the children will attend. Schools obtain state funding for each student, and schools need consistency in a child’s attendance to properly educate a child. Therefore, when parents have equal custody rights under a shared parenting plan, one parent’s address must determine which school the children attend. The residential parent designation does not typically award the parent any other “power” or leverage over the other parent. Shared parenting plans appear to be the preferred order of the court as they are typically in the children’s best interest. Shared parenting plans do not require parents make every decision jointly. Everyday parenting decisions are for whichever parent has the child that day.
When parents are unable to work together to resolve major parenting decisions for their children, the court will often favor sole legal custody. Also, shared parenting does not affect the amount of time each parent spends with their child. The visitation schedule is a separate matter ruled on by the court. For example, parents could have shared parenting but one parent may only be awarded one day of parenting time each month. However, when their child needs surgery, both parents would make the medical decisions jointly. Finally, shared parenting does not mean that there is no child support ordered.