By:  Susan L. Pollet, Esq.

Custody and access arrangements following separation and divorce have been the subject of much child development and divorce research. Beneficial parenting plan options now consider children’s developmental and psychological needs and provide alternatives for parents, courts, and professionals to consider as they decide upon the shape of children’s future relationship with each of their parents.

Parenting Plans For ChildrenThe importance of having parents involved in developing plans for how children are cared for after divorce has been articulated as threefold.  First, parents are in the best position to know which arrangements make sense for their families; second, the process of working on arrangements helps “set the stage” for future interactions; and third, there is some evidence to suggest that parties will comply more readily with plans they have created as opposed to ones that have been imposed upon them.

One hotly contested issue is whether or not overnights away from their primary caretakers are good for infants, and there are debates about the benefits and drawbacks of overnight schedules for young children as well. For older children, experts have maintained that children should be involved in formulating post-divorce and separation parenting arrangements with the parents, together, in appropriate circumstances, and perhaps with the help of a therapist.

Where can parents access some useful Model Parenting Plans? There are several jurisdictions which require a parenting plan in all cases; additional states which require detailed plans before a joint custody order is entered and another group of statutes which gives the court discretion to require a parenting plan in any case. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers provides a model plan. Key provisions include jurisdiction, decision-making rights, education, medical care, extracurricular activities, religion, time scheduling, special circumstances, relocation, travel, parent behaviors, parent contact, care by others, modification of the agreement, methods of dispute resolution, child support and breach.

A number of States have Model Parenting Time Plans on their websites. In New York, such a plan can be found HERE. There are also Web-based companies which provide parents with assistance in developing and carrying out such plans such as Sharekids.com, ParentingTime.net, and Coparenting.com

There is parenting time calendar software available for parents which allows them to put in their parenting time schedule and print out custom calendars. In addition, it calculates the number of parenting time overnights each parent has and calculates parenting time percentages. There are other sample schedules by child custody and parenting experts on the web. In addition, there are resources on the web discussing items to consider putting in parenting plans and suggestions on changing a parenting time visitation schedule.  

Some basic advice to parents is available on the web, to wit, to stick to the schedule in the parenting plans; to have the schedule be predictable the younger the children are; to take into consideration the age of the children when designing the plan; and to be aware of the other parent’s schedule and work out a realistic plan that can be followed by both parents in order to keep conflict to a minimum.

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