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What Information Should Be Included in a Parenting Plan?

When a married couple decides to divorce, they are required to do so through the legal system. Issues they may need to decide on include child custody, child support, division of assets and property, division of marital debt, and more.

If the couple was never married, they do not need the legal system to end the relationship, however, if they have children, they still need to have a family court judge issue child custody and child support orders. Unfortunately, many unmarried parents decide they do not need to involve the courts in their parenting only to discover that they have no legal standing when a serious issue arises. This is why in even the friendliest of breakups, parents should have a court-approved custody agreement in place.

Every custody agreement needs a parenting plan that should address a number of factors regarding how the parents will co-parent their child. Ideally, parents can agree on these issues and the family court judge overseeing the case will approve it, however, if they cannot agree, the judge will make the final determination. The parenting plan should cover the following:

Decision-Making: Parents need to make decisions for their child involving their healthcare, education, extracurricular activities, and religion. A parenting plan should specify whether these decisions will be shared or whether one parent will make the decision. For example, one parent may be allocated the responsibility of deciding the child’s religious upbringing because the parents are of different faith but have agreed the child will be raised in that faith. The plan should also specify which parent’s home will be used for the child’s “official” address for school registration, medical records, etc.

Parenting Time: Not only should the parenting agreement specify how parenting time should be divided between the parents during the week or month, but it should also address provisions regarding special holidays, birthdays, summer vacations, and school breaks.

Right of First Refusal: One provision that many parenting plans contain is the right of first refusal. There are times where a parent will not be able to be with the child during their scheduled parenting time because of other commitments. If there is a right of first refusal, then that parent is required to offer the other parent the option of caring for the child during these times instead of making other childcare arrangements.

Communication with the Child: Depending on the situation between the parents, a parenting plan may also contain a provision that specifies when a parent can contact the child during the other parent’s parenting time.

Communication with Each Other: Although parents should be able to co-parent in a cooperating manner, that is not always the case. Parenting plans should contain the contact information for both parents (address, phone number, email, etc.) and employer information. There should also be a specific provision regarding how communication between parents should be addressed in the event of an emergency, a health issue with the child, or travel plans during a parent’s parenting time.

Transportation: Parents should decide how transporting the child between homes should be handled, as well as transportation to school and extra-curricular activities.

Relocation: Every parenting plan should have a provision requiring a parent to notify the other parent if they intend to relocate. The plan should specify how many days in advance the parent must make that notification. Any kind of relocation plan may result in the need for a child custody modification order.

Future Modifications: In addition to relocating, other issues could come up that could cause one parent to consider going back to court for a modification. The parenting plan should specify that parents will resolve issues between them through mediation first and the steps they can take if mediation fails to work.

Contact Our Office for Legal Assistance

A parenting plan can also include any other provisions you and the other parent feel the need to address. A dedicated Rhode Island child custody attorney can help you negotiate a plan and ensure that your parental rights are protected during this process. Call Kirshenbaum Law Associates at 401-467-5300 for a confidential consultation.