In any family law case where the court will decide custody, parents must file a Parenting Plan. This plan specifically sets out how parents will share time with their children after divorce or separation.
Parenting plans are important because they eliminate any need for the parents to argue over where the children should be and who will be able to make major decisions if the parents are unable to agree. It determines who will have legal and physical custody of the children. It is important, therefore, to get your Parenting Plan just right for the health and well-being of your children.
Creating a Unique Parenting Plan for Your Child’s Needs
While Georgia offers a standardized form for Parenting Plans, it is still a good idea to create a plan that is individualized to your unique circumstances. Creating this plan can be an emotionally charged discussion—and it may not be one that you should have on your own. An experienced family law attorney can help you create a plan that works for you and your family.
Read more: Guiding Your Children through Divorce
Issues Addressed in the Parenting Plan
The Parenting Plan touches on a broad range of topics that affect your children. However, being specific on certain matters can help you avoid disputes down the road. In fact, Georgia law requires that the Parenting Plan be very specific and include the time that residential custody will begin and end for each parent.
The Parenting Plan often includes provisions such as:
- Who will have final decision-making power regarding the child
- Which parent will have primary physical custody (or whether it will be joint)
- How parents will decide disagreements regarding decision-making
- Parenting time schedules
- Where the children will spend holidays
- How the children will spend vacations
- Transportation arrangements
- Provisions regarding contacting the children
- Issues regarding supervised parenting time (if necessary)
- How parents must communicate with one another
- Terms about access to records and information for the child
- The process for modification of the plan
The plan can include virtually any other provisions that the parents decide are necessary for their unique situation.
You should consider specific aspects of your child’s life, including school calendars, goals for the child, and the parents work and activity schedules when creating the Parenting Plan. For example, if the child has special medical needs, provisions regarding those requirements, such as when doctor’s appointments may be scheduled or how nursing care is arranged, may be necessary.
When Parents Disagree About the Parenting Plan
The plan addresses many hard-to-discuss aspects of the parent-child relationship for each parent. Because of the intense emotional aspects of creating this plan, it is not unusual that parents do not agree on certain issues.
When parents agree on the provisions in the plan, the court will review the plan and usually approve it as long as it is reasonable and detailed. However, if the parents cannot develop their own plan, the judge may establish one for them. The judge will not know your children, so a judge’s decision will not always meet your particular circumstances.
If parents cannot agree, they can each file a separate plan as a proposal to the court. The court can then piece together its own plan based on the parents’ input and other evidence presented at a temporary hearing or final trial.
Required Recognitions in the Plan
Even if parents cannot agree on a plan, they must still recognize certain “truths” in the plan as set out by O.C.G.A. § 19-9-1. These include:
- Close and continuing parent-child relationships and continuity in the child’s life are in the child’s best interest
- The child’s needs will change and grow, and parents will make an effort to address these needs in a way that will minimize the necessity to return to court to modify the parenting plan
- The parent with physical custody will make day-to-day decisions and emergency decisions while the child is residing with that parent
- Both parents will have access to all the child’s records and information
Working together is strongly encouraged and emphasized in creating a Parenting Plan. However, you do not have to go through this process alone. Contact our team for more information on how we can help. Our experience can provide you with Parenting Plan suggestions you may not have considered.