By Carolyn Torres-Mabe. The state of Georgia requires a Parenting Plan in all cases involving custody of a minor child.
A Parenting Plan is the document that provides the details regarding physical custody (who has parenting time and when) and legal custody (how decisions for the child are made and who has access to the children’s information). There are other provisions contained within a Parenting Plan such as how the children are exchanged between parents, when and how the non-custodial parent communicates with the children, and how information regarding extracurricular activities is exchanged.
A well-written parenting plan addresses and resolves all potential issues parents may encounter in co-parenting.
The physical custody sections of the Parenting Plan state who has primary physical custody of the child (who has the child the majority of the time) or if the parents have joint (substantially equal) parenting time. The physical custody sections of the Parenting Plan also details which parent has the child for all days, including weekdays, weekends, holidays, during the summer, and other breaks from school.
A Basic Parenting Plan may allow for some deviation with a mutual agreement and this may make them a tempting option for divorced parents. Basic Parenting Plans, however, lack the level of detail likely to be needed in the future.
For example, how is spring break defined? A basic Parenting Plan will just state who has the break in which years. However, crafting more detail is prudent. Does spring break start when school recesses for the break until school resumes? Or does Spring Break start the Monday following the recess for the break at 9:00 a.m. and last until the Sunday before school resumes at 5:00 p.m.? While this level detail may seem tedious and unnecessary, it will reduce future confusion and conflict. And what may not seem like a source of conflict when the Parenting Plan is drafted may soon turn into a hotly contested issue.
The Parenting Plan also addresses legal custody, which is how decisions are made for the child. In the vast majority of cases, parents have joint legal custody. Joint legal custody is when parents have equal access to the children’s school/medical/extracurricular activity information and when parents must discuss any major issues and make a good faith effort to reach an agreement. However, if a mutually agreed upon decision is not reached, one parent must have the ability to decide. This is called final decision-making authority.
The State of Georgia requires that the Parenting Plan notes who has final decision-making authority in the areas of education, non-emergency medical issues, extracurricular activities, and religion. It is common for the primary custodian to have final decision-making authority in all four areas, but just using a broad stroke approach may overlook important factors. For example, parents typically split the cost of extracurricular activities, but does that mean that the parent with final decision-making authority has no parameters regarding cost or scheduling of the activities that will almost certainly affect the other parent?
The Parenting Plan is a comprehensive overview of all day-to-day and non-financial matters concerning the children. Co-parenting can be challenging even in the most harmonious situations. A well-written, well-thoughout, comprehensive and carefully drafted Parenting Plan will likely reduce potential strife.
Contact us for a free consultation on how to perfect your Parenting Plan.