If you are involved in a custody matter with your child's (or children's) other parent, one important document you must draw up is the parenting plan. Broadly, the plan specifies how parenting time and decision-making authority will be divided. You and your child's other parent can draft a single plan if you agree on these issues. Otherwise, you would each have to file separate plans, and the judge would determine what arrangement would be in your child's best interests.
The parenting plan serves a couple of different purposes. First, it ensures that your child's health, safety, and welfare are considered since their time will be split between both of their parents. Second, it serves to minimize disagreements that may arise between you and your child's other parent, as it should contain provisions covering a wide range of situations.
Let's explore some of the specific considerations for a parenting plan.
What the Parenting Plan Should Recognize?
Developing a parenting plan can be challenging. You and your child's other parent likely want to ensure that you each get to spend quality time with your child and that your rights are protected. Additionally, you want to ensure that your child receives the support, care, and contact they need to grow and develop.
O.C.G.A. § 19-9-1 enumerates the factors you must consider to craft a well-thought-out parenting plan.
The law provides that a parenting plan must recognize that:
- The child needs a "close and continuing parent-child relationship,"
- The child's needs will change over time,
- The parent the child is with will make day-to-day and emergency decisions, and
- The child's records should be accessible to both parents.
What Should Be Included in the Parenting Plan?
In a family law matter involving children, custody must be decided. In Georgia, physical and legal custody can be awarded. Physical custody concerns whom the child lives with. If sole custody is granted, one parent has primary custody of the child. If joint physical custody is granted, parenting time is split equally between the parents.
Legal custody concerns who has the decision-making authority in your child's life. As with physical custody, this can be awarded as sole or joint. With sole legal custody, one parent has the final say in matters concerning their child's upbringing and care. With joint legal custody, both parents share decision-making responsibilities.
The custody arrangement provides a general outline of your and your child's other parent's involvement in your child's life. Your parenting plan must also go into specifics about how the arrangement will work.
Among other considerations, you may need to identify:
- When you and your child's other parent will have physical custody of your child;
- Where your child will spend their days and nights;
- Who your child will be with for major events, such as birthdays, holidays, and school breaks;
- How you and your child's other parent will pick up and drop off your child for visitation;
- Where exchanges will occur;
- Who will pay for transportation costs;
- Who will make decisions about education, health care, extracurricular activities, and religious instruction;
- Whether supervision is needed during either parent's period of visitation;
- How to handle situations in which one parent's new partner is over when the parent has physical custody of the child;
- How communication between parent and child will occur when they are in the physical custody of the other parent;
- How you and your child's other parent will resolve disagreements.
Can I Consult with an Attorney About a Parenting Plan?
The parenting plan establishes how much time you spend with your child and how much say you have in major decisions affecting their life. As such, you must carefully develop a plan considering all relevant factors. This process can be overwhelming, and you may worry that you might overlook something that could affect your parent-child relationship.
Fortunately, you can retain the services of a family law attorney for help. They can assist in developing a fair parenting plan focused on protecting the rights of you and your child.