When a North Dakota couple with children divorces, they face many difficult, emotional decisions. One of those is creating a parenting plan, or custody plan, for their children. A parenting plan is a roadmap to splitting child custody and often helps parents avoid conflicts down the road as families face decisions.
Increasingly, courts favor parents working together to share custody of their children. In fact, in 2017, Kentucky made physical custody and equal parenting time the standard while a divorce is finalized. For those parents looking to share custody, here are five key areas addressed in a standard parenting plan:
- Regular child custody schedule. This schedule dictates when children will be with each parent. In some joint custody situations, children may spend one or two weeks with one parent and then switch for equal time with the other. This plan may change during the summer.
- Special occasion schedule. This schedule sets how parents will split time for holidays, vacations or birthdays. Perhaps, the children will spend Thanksgiving with one parent one year and Christmas with the other. That arrangement may rotate from year to year or change as children get older.
- Expenses budget. This details how parents will divide costs for health insurance premiums and copays. It also addresses splitting costs for extracurricular activities or childcare. Parents may divide some of these costs equally. Others are split by a ratio the court sets as part of a divorce decree.
- Education and childcare plan. Here, parents decide if children will attend public school or private, or if they will remain the schools they’ve been attending for a certain period after the divorce. Also, parents should agree on who will care for the children during summer breaks or what daycare they will go to.
- Medical decision-making. How will you make medical decisions for your child? How much input will each spouse have in those? What if a child needs mental health care or parents want to address any dietary concerns? Again, agreeing on these important decision-making parameters helps reduce future conflicts.
- Communication. Parents can establish how they will communicate with each other and with the children when they are with the other parent.
- Extended family visits. If children visit grandparents or aunts, uncles and cousins and that impacts the custody plan, parents can negotiate how often to schedule visits and how to split time between both sides of the family.
North Dakota courts also consider a parenting plan a legal document, so working with an experienced divorce attorney will ensure each parents’ rights and responsibilities are defined clearly and meet the children’s best interests.