A parenting plan, parenting arrangement, parenting agreement or access schedule is a voluntary agreement created by a child's parents that lays out specific terms of child-rearing that the parents will abide by. Such an agreement is incorporated into the divorce decree or legal separation. The parenting plan allocates parenting tasks and divides duties such as financial responsibility, creating a stable, loving environment for the child, caring for the child's physical and emotional needs and others. A parenting plan may have specific obligations and conditions as agreed upon by the parents. However, most plans include decisions regarding the following:
Visitation schedule with each parent, including holidays
Child support payment and payment schedule
Alternative dispute resolution (what law would apply in the case a disagreement or agreement to complete mediation if a dispute arises)
Parenting plans are temporary or permanent, it depends on if the agreement has been filed with the court or has been finalized and implemented in the dissolution of marriage. A temporary plan has been filed with the court and is enforceable regarding child custody, visitation, etc. until the plan has been finalized. There may be a time delay between the filing of the temporary order and the final court decree. This is why it is important to file such a plan right away. A temporary parenting plan may be filed by the child's parents or may be initiated by the court. A permanent parenting plan has been finalized by the court and the agreement has been incorporated into the divorce, dissolution of marriage or modification decree.
If the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, the court may decide to create a plan for them. When creating the parenting plan the court may require each parent to submit his or her own plan for consideration. If the parents (or one parent) need help with this task, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to review the case and make a recommendation to the court. The parents must agree to the parenting plan to have it finalized in the divorce degree. If the court discovers evidence of child abuse, they will not create a parenting plan.
If there is a change in circumstances, such as the relocation of one parent, a parenting plan may be modified. The parties must make a motion to the court for a modification of their parenting plan and the court must confirm the modification. If a motion for modifying the parenting plan is made to the court, the court will consider the best interests of the child when making their determination. The court will not modify a parenting plan simply because one of the parents have violated the plan.
The court will consider a variety of factors when determining the best interests of the child. However, most commonly, a parenting plan will be modified when there is evidence of abuse (physical or emotional), an inability of the parents to cooperate with each other, child endangerment, neglect, a change in a parents' mental or physical health or a change in circumstances making the modification necessary.
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