While parents try to move on with their separate lives after a divorce, they must still work together to raise their children in the best way possible. To help facilitate this, many states require parents to draft, file and maintain parenting plans. For parents in California, part of the process of ensuring the best interests of the children is to review and update existing parenting plans when situation changes are considerable. Family law attorneys can help parents understand the parenting plan process and when to modify existing plans.
Planning for Parents
Parenting plans may seem like they are for the children, but they are tools for divorced parents to use to raise their children separately. Parenting plans, or legal custody and visitation agreements, help outline the detailed living arrangements, schedules and decision-making power of each parent. Parents negotiate and agree to parenting plans, which are then reviewed by family law judges, who decide any outstanding issues using the best interests of the children doctrine. Approved parenting plans are then filed with the court.
Main Parenting Plan Inclusions
The main focus of requiring parenting plans in California is to facilitate the "continuous and frequent contact" of children with both parents. When drafting parenting plans, parents should consider factors like the age, health, and social and emotional needs of the children. Plans typically include items like holiday visitation calendars, shuttling duties for outside activities and which parent can make decisions about things like religion, education and medical care. Comprehensive parenting plans work best, but even these still need updating.
Significant Changes Mean Modifications
When significant shifts in circumstances occur after a parenting plan is approved by the court, it may be time for modification. Changes in circumstances include children getting older and developing new interests in or around one parent, parental job relocation or adjusting to new living conditions after one or both parents remarry. Courts mainly consider only shifts that impact custody or parenting time arrangements, because maintaining stability and doing what is in the best interests of the children is most important.
Helping Hands for Parenting Plans
Keeping parenting plans updated and reflective of current family circumstances is an important task for divorced parents in California. Parents can update existing parenting plans following significant changes in circumstances by negotiating and agreeing to the modifications and submitting the revised plan to the court. Parents can also ask the court to revise a parenting plan if they cannot agree on how to modify it. Regardless of who updates the plan, any changes must still be in the best interests of the children involved.
If you are a parent considering a divorce, or a parent that may need to update an existing parenting plan, contact a California family law attorney to discuss your parenting plan needs and the creation or modification process. Attorneys have direct experience working with parenting plans and can help you tailor yours to meet your unique parenting needs.