When parents get divorced, it’s important that the children maintain a relationship with both parents. The goal of a parenting plan is to create a schedule that allows each parent to have continued, regular time with the children in a way that works best for the kids and the parents. While couples are encouraged to create their own parenting plan, each county also has standard orders of parenting that the court will impose if the parents can’t agree.
Do It Yourself
Your first and best option is to work together to devise a plan that is fair and that works with your family’s schedule. You know better than any court what your work and travel schedules are like, or which extra-curricular activities the children enjoy and who can take them. Each parent should feel like they are having continued, meaningful exposure to the kids for the plan to be successful. No matter how contentious your divorce becomes, try to put aside your differences long enough to develop a parenting plan that everyone can agree to.
Designing your own plan lets you be more creative in your approach. For example, some of the more popular plans today include a 2-2-3 or 2-5-5 schedule, meaning the children would spend 2 days with mom, 2 days with dad, and 3 days with mom again before repeating the cycle. The first week Mom might have the kids Monday and Tuesday, Dad would have them Wednesday and Thursday, then Mom would have them for a 3-day weekend. The next week the pattern repeats but starts with Dad’s days. You could also choose to alternate weeks, arranging to exchange the children on the same day and time every week.
You can be as creative as you like in creating your own parenting schedule, but it is important to keep in mind that if it is too complicated, it will be difficult to manage and plan for the future. You need to be able to understand the schedule so there aren’t arguments over who gets what days. More importantly, the children need to be able to understand the schedule.
Standard Orders of Parenting
If working together to create a plan just simply isn’t an option, the court will issue a standard order of parenting. A standard order will designate one party as the residential parent, and typically the non-residential parent will have one weeknight and every other weekend with the children. The standard order of parenting time, which can have different names depending on the court, is designed as a starting point. While the court can ultimately adopt the standard order as the final parenting time, it can also make modifications to expand or restrict the parenting time depending on the specific facts of the case.
Some plans try to consider the needs of the children at different ages, so the plan will change as the children grow. For example, Warren County and Butler County both have plans with different schedules for infants, toddlers, and teenagers. Generally, these age-specific plans provide for shorter, more frequent visits for very young children, longer visits as the children get older, and they defer to teenagers’ schedules as they develop increased obligations outside the home. Montgomery County does not have an age-specific standard order.
Summer Parenting Time
Typically, parenting plans will also include a summer schedule that differs from the school year schedule. School obligations require structure and routine, but summer is a time for more flexibility, so it’s common to see summer orders that allot for equal or close to equal time for both parents. Of course, if your parenting plan already gives equal time to both parents, then there’s no need to make a change for the summer.
Summer parenting time also includes vacation language, ensuring both parents have the opportunity to take the children on vacation. The plan will specify the length of time for vacation, notice requirements to the other parent, and scheduling priority. Most vacation provisions require each parent give the other advance notice of the dates and destination by a certain date, allow vacations to span 10 days or so, and alternate which parent has their first choice of dates each year.
A standard order will also create an annual schedule for every holiday. For example, in odd years each parent will have the children for specific holidays, and in even years that schedule will alternate. Usually, courts will order that Mother’s Day is spent with Mom and Father’s Day is spent with Dad, but this has become more flexible as same-sex parenting plans have become more common. The plan will even specify the exact time of the exchange for each holiday so there is no miscommunication.
Creating a parenting schedule is one thing, but the devil is in the details, and parenting orders try to address every detail so there no questions or disagreements. For example, it may dictate:
- When and where the exchange will take place;
- Transportation responsibilities for the exchange;
- What happens if one parent is late;
- Frequency and method of communication between the children and the parent not present;
- Extended breaks and summer vacations;
- Order of priority if the usual schedule conflicts with the holiday schedule;
- Cancelling or making up parenting time;
- Extra-curricular activities, and much more.
Phase-in Parenting Time
If a parent has been absent from a child’s life for a significant amount of time, the court may impose a phase-in parenting plan to introduce the child to the non-residential parent on a limited basis. It may start with one 3-hour visit each week at a neutral site for the first month, increasing to a 6-hour visit once a week for the next month before incorporating one overnight visit every other week for several weeks, with the goal of graduating to a standard order once the relationship has been established or re-established.
Get Help from the Experts
Creating your own parenting plan doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. An experienced divorce attorney like the professionals at Kirkland & Sommers will make sure you’ve addressed everything, and that no detail is left out. After all, you’ve probably never had to think about creating a parenting plan before, but we have done thousands! And if you and your spouse are having trouble agreeing on a plan, your attorneys may be able to work together to pave the way and help limit your contact with the other party.
Schedule a Free Consultation
When it comes to parenting plans, we know you have questions, and we have answers! Come talk to one of the experts at Kirkland & Sommers for a no-obligation consultation and see how we can help you design the right parenting plan for your family. Consultations are free, so schedule yours today by calling one of our offices or clicking the link below!