What Goes Into A Parenting Plan?
While the custody laws in Missouri and Kansas differ, the goal is the same: to ensure children of divorced and separated parents live in the best environment possible to help them thrive. Legally this is called preserving “the best interests of the child.”
As your lawyer, I seek to determine what the “best interests of your child” looks like given the unique circumstances of your family. In most cases, it means maintaining meaningful relationships with both parents, but how that happens is largely up for debate. Those who can set aside their differences for the sake of their kids often come out ahead with a plan the whole family can live with.
Physical Custody And Parenting Time
Most people hear “custody” and automatically think of physical custody, that is, where children live most of the time. Ideally, parents have joint custody of the children, but that doesn’t necessarily mean shuttling kids back and forth between two homes every week or weekend. It simply means equal time spent with each parent.
While possibilities for timesharing are seemingly endless, they should be detailed. In addition to a routine schedule, parents will need to determine:
- If the school year schedule mimics the summertime schedule or not
- How to handle holidays and school vacations
- What holidays count as holidays (Is your birthday a holiday? What about Mother’s Day or Father’s Day?)
- What happens when one parent wants to take an extended vacation with the kids
- How to communicate changes to the schedule, whether expected or not
Being A Parent, Jointly
The other aspect of a parenting plan deals with “legal” custody, that is, how parents make decisions about the children’s upbringing. Legal custody preserves your right to be a parent, even if your kids don’t live in your home 24/7. Your agreement may include things like:
- Family values and rules
- Where kids go to school
- Religious instruction
- Who handles doctor or dentist appointments
- Extracurricular activities
- What decisions need input from both parents
You may also include other aspects of parenting in your plan, like what constitutes an “emergency” that the other parent needs to know or who will handle communication with the children’s school.
Your Plan Is Meant To Be Modified
A successful parenting plan often stays in a drawer and never gets used. It’s there to provide guidance for you and your ex long after your divorce or separation is finalized.
That said, the needs of your children will change as they grow older. You can informally modify your agreement at any time by discussing and agreeing on certain changes to the plan with your children’s other parent.
However, to enforce any new agreement, the plan must have been formally modified through the court. Generally, formal modifications are only granted for big issues, like one parent moving across the state or to a new country. I can help you in seeking modification or enforcement of your parenting plan as your family’s needs change.
Laying The Groundwork For A Successful Future
Your parenting plan will set the tone for your family’s future. I can help you lay this important foundation so that your family can move forward successfully. To discuss your parenting plan or concerns about it with me, attorney Shea Stevens, contact my office in Overland Park today at 913-717-0797.