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Think of the Children: What You Should Consider When Developing a Parenting Plan

When developing a parenting plan during a divorce, parents may struggle to find a balance that accommodates the child’s needs and the obligations of daily life. By communicating openly and laying out a specific course of action, parents can provide their children with stability while developing an actionable plan for effective co-parenting.

Physical custody
Perhaps the first part of a parenting plan that comes to mind is the section that lays out details regarding physical custody. Physical custody can be tailored to meet each family’s needs and should accommodate both parents’ schedules, as well as the child’s needs for time spent with both parents. Some children need a “home base,” while others need the least amount of transitions as possible, and others function well with a week-on-week off schedule. Your parenting plan should also include provisions for vacations, holidays, and special circumstances such as school closings due to inclement weather. Having a set plan for physical custody helps avoid disputes in the future, as well as gives your child a sense of structure and stability that will help them transition into the post-divorce phase.

Legal custody
Your parenting plan should also include a section outlining legal custody, which entails who has the decision-making power in certain circumstances. This section of your parenting plan is a chance for both parents to express their preferences and comfort level with the other parent making routine or emergency decisions on behalf of the child. For instance, you might include a provision that states both parents must be consulted in major medical decisions, but in the event of your child becoming sick at school, the parent with physical custody at the time is to be contacted by the school and can take the child to the doctor. By outlining the legal custody considerations ahead of time, each parent will know when they have decision-making authority and when they need to confer with the other parent, thus minimizing future headaches.

Needs of the child
The most important aspect of any parenting plan is the needs of the child. A child’s needs can take many forms from the basic needs of food and shelter to more abstract needs such as love and attention. It is important to remember that your child needs to spend time with both parents and have their needs met by each on a consistent basis. In addition to food, shelter, medical care and other basic needs, your child’s needs may include transportation to school, involvement in extracurricular activities, or other time commitments that enhance his or her development. When developing your parenting plan, work with the other parent to ensure that both the child’s basic and abstract needs are met, while spending adequate time with each parent.

Schedules of the parents
While it is important for your child to spend time with each parent, certain circumstances may make scheduling difficult. Parents should take into consideration their work schedules, demands of other children, and other commitments to develop a parenting plan that provides an equal balance. If one parent often travels for work with little advance notice, for example, a provision that outlines how the child will be transferred to the other parent will make such occurrences much easier.
Developing your parenting plan

If you are a parent in North Carolina who is developing a parenting plan for your family, contact the experienced family lawyers at Easterling Law, PLLC. We can help you make an effective parenting plan that works for your family.