What Should the Parenting Plan Include?
While every parenting plan will be different and reflect the unique needs of the parents and children involved, there are some essential items you’ll want to make sure to cover.
Physical custody items to cover in your parenting plan to ensure your child’s schedule accounts for all of their time, activities, and obligations no matter which parent’s house they’re staying at:
- daily and weekly activities such as sports practices that affect your children’s schedules;
- where they will spend holidays, summer/winter vacations, and other special days;
- after-school obligations like tutors, music lessons, etc. that they’ll need to attend;
- weekend activities like birthdays, soccer games, etc. that could impact their schedule; and
- trade-off times and locations when switching parents and homes for the week or weekend.
Legal custody items to cover in your parenting plan to ensure your child’s overall health and wellbeing are accounted for, and that both parents are united on these important fronts:
- where and how your children will attend school;
- what their religious practices will be;
- what your medical, dental, and emergency care plan is for the children;
- what daycare will look like for younger children; and
- what jobs and driving will look like for older children.
50/50 Child Custody Parenting Plans
A true 50/50 custody schedule gives both parents the same amount of time with their children. This can be accomplished using one of several different schedules, the most popular being the following:
- one week on, one week off. The parents trade off between having their kids for a whole week at a time, rotating every other week.
- 2-2-3: Each parent has two weekdays and they alternate three-day weekends. The parents swap each week, either having the kids on Monday and Tuesday or Wednesday and Thursday.
- 5-2-2-5: Each parent has set weekdays of either Monday and Tuesday or Wednesday and Thursday and alternate three-day weekends beginning each Friday.
Primary Household with Visitation
Any time a 50/50 child custody plan is not ordered, one parent will be known as the “primary custodial parent” and the other will have “the right to visitation.” The older the child, the more likely it will be that a 50/50 plan will make sense to the court. Generally, but not always, courts will find that younger children require a “home base,” whether or not both parents are equally capable of parenting the child and providing a loving and stable environment.
Joint Custody Schedules
The parent who has the child(ren) for more than half of the time is considered the “primary custodial parent” and their home is considered the “primary household.” It is possible for a judge to issue joint legal custody (decision-making power) to both parents but not joint physical custody. In such cases, both parents will share equal responsibility for making important decisions regarding the wellbeing of their children, but only one parent will maintain primary physical care of the children.
Graduated “Step Up” Visitation Plan
In a graduated or “step up” parenting plan, the noncustodial parent is allowed more and more time with the children on an incremental basis. This is generally contingent upon prerequisites being accomplished prior to each step. The prerequisite to stepped up visitation could be the child reaching a certain age, the parent exercising a certain number of visits, the parent obtaining a larger living space etc.
In some cases, due to either an adverse relationship with a child or issues with substance abuse, emotional abuse, or domestic violence, one or both parents can only visit with their children under the supervision of another adult. In these types of cases, special schedules must be established, and they must work for all parties involved; this includes both parents, the children, and the supervisor.
Parents with supervised visitation rights generally see their children for between 4 and 8 hours per week. All of the child’s remaining time is spent with the custodial parent. The goal is always to get the supervised parent into a place that he or she can be relieved from the requirement of supervision if at all possible.
Making Your Parenting Plan Work
At GYL, we are committed to helping you create a parenting plan that works for you and your kids. As parents ourselves, we know just how important it is to foster a sense of normalcy for your children at this time, and we are here to help you do exactly that. The parenting schedules that we create for our clients are designed with your children’s best interests at heart and will account for every activity, holiday, weekly obligation, and personal preferences and beliefs possible.