There are many complexities that can make co-parenting difficult. You need to navigate the needs of your children, schedule of the other parent, and constant changes to both. Of course, these are just the complications that appear on the surface of any co-parenting arrangement. Any two parents will have a range of considerations that may include personality, occupations, other partners, remarriage, and living arrangements.
While there are a number of circumstances that make co-parenting challenging, there are ways to sort through each aspect of co-parenting and prepare for the complications. Preparation, documentation, and cooperation all help, and a California parenting plan is a fantastic way to achieve each of these goals.
#1: A Parenting Plan Is Entirely Optional
There are no strict rules or requirements for a California parenting plan, and the decision to create one is entirely at the option and election of the co-parents. As such, there aren’t any specific legal requirements for a parenting plan either. That being said, a useful and functional parenting plan will include any compromises and terms agreed during divorce or other family law proceedings. For example, if the court orders a specific amount paid in child support, it is helpful if that amount is stated in the parenting plan.
It can also be helpful to include the advice of a family law attorney in drafting your parenting plan. At the Bledsoe Firm, we have seen California parenting plans and similar documents become an essential tool for co-parents when drafted correctly. Our experience with parenting plans and other family law issues makes our team ideal outsiders to offer advice.
#2: A California Parenting Plan Is a Point of Reference
A California parenting plan isn’t traditionally a legal contract and it is difficult to incorporate provisions that create legally binding obligations. Therefore, the typical use of a parenting plan is to serve as a point of reference.
When it comes to bedtimes and sports schedules, appropriate allowances for chores and allocating costs for medical care or activities, a parenting plan gives you the parameters. For co-parents that respect the terms of a parenting plan, this works really well and provides a great deal of consistency across two households. As well, if the parenting plan lays the ground rules for allocating time and costs both parents are well aware of the boundaries and whether they are meeting their obligations to the kids.
#3: Allocate Holidays and Special Events in Your Parenting Plan
A fantastic use of the parenting plan is allocating time spent with your children for holidays and special events. Many co-parents choose to incorporate a seasonal calendar in their parenting plan and it is even more useful when this calendar is updated annually or bi-annually, to allow for changes in circumstances and family vacations. All of these events can become contentious if not clearly delineated, and creating a parenting plan with California family law attorney is a great way to head off arguments.
#4: Outline Who Is the Decision Maker
Raising children across different households and environments is difficult, but often more prickly is determining who is the decision maker when there is disagreement, change of events, or change of circumstances for your children. For example, if a teacher proposes your child moves into more advanced classes at school or skips a grade, what parent is ultimately responsible for making that decision?
A California parenting plan can outline the decision maker for different areas of a child’s life. Perhaps the father is more knowledgeable of the child’s extracurricular or recreational activities and should have the final say-so in these areas, while the mother has the final decision on educational opportunities and complications. Of course, there is always room in a parenting plan to first seek the other parent’s opinion on co-parenting issues.
#5: Provide a Plan for Handling Disagreements
Designating a decision maker is one way to avoid disagreements or settle issues before there are arguments, but you can include much more in your California parenting plan. A parenting plan is an opportunity to outline the appropriate measures to settle a disagreement, no matter how contentious, before it even arises.
You can include boundaries, such as taking 24 hours to think over all major decisions and forbidding the use of name calling or badmouthing the other parent when a disagreement does occur. Other provisions may speak to the individual personalities of the co-parents involved.
Talk with a Lawyer About Co-Parenting
The most even-tempered and well-natured co-parents encounter some discord during the lifetime of their child or children. No matter how you feel about a former partner or spouse at the time of your split, you should account for contentious situations and complexities down the road. A parenting plan helps you do that, and our team at the Bledsoe Firm can assist.
To learn more about co-parenting arrangements and the options for creating a California parenting plan, contact our team at (949) 363-5551.