When a couple divorces, there are many decisions to be made regarding how to move forward, from spousal support and asset division to child custody and visitation rights. For couples with children, one of the most important aspects of planning during divorce involves creating a detailed parenting plan. A parenting plan allows parents to provide input to the court on how they would like to handle child custody, child support, and other child-rearing decisions after they are divorced.
A written parenting plan is a document that co-parents can create together upon their split that outlines parenting time with their shared children. They then submit it to the court. The parenting plan helps to provide structure and limit future miscommunications, as all of the details are laid out in writing. At a minimum, a parenting plan legally includes details about legal and physical custody, visitation schedules, and healthcare details.
The plan can also include other specifics, such as how disagreements will be resolved, childcare details, transportation plans, and education plans. The court has the final say regarding what is believed to be in the best interest of the child, but they take well-developed parenting plans created by the couple into consideration when making determinations.
Parenting plans are required to include the big decisions, such as information about custody and visitation schedules, but there are many other details that can be included to create a more comprehensive parenting plan. Follow the checklist below as you and your co-parent discuss and develop your plan:
The checklist above could potentially be only a starting point when it comes to developing a comprehensive plan. Just as all families are different, so are all parenting plans. Do your best to think ahead to any potential conflicts that may arise as co-parents and calmly discuss how they will be handled now rather than when you are faced with them head-on. An effective parenting plan will benefit your children just as much as it will benefit you as co-parents, as it can limit the amount of guesswork and disagreements co-parents could face in the future.
Creating a parenting plan is not usually easy. It requires recently split couples to come together and put differences aside to determine what is best for their children. A big mistake made when creating a parenting plan is to put your wants above the needs and best interests of your children. While many parents would love sole custody of their children, this is not usually in the child’s best interest from the court’s point of view. Other mistakes co-parents make when developing a plan include:
The more details you can provide the judge in your parenting plan, the better. An experienced North Carolina attorney who specializes in family law can help co-parents create a plan to avoid making these or other mistakes.
Courts are always concerned with what is in the best interest of the children involved in divorce and custody cases. This includes a variety of factors, each of which can be considered by the judge when determining what parenting and custody arrangement is best. Co-parents in North Carolina who create a parenting plan to present to the court should keep these factors in mind when attempting to create a plan that the judge will approve of:
Unless concerning factors are present with either parent, such as a history of neglect or abuse, North Carolina law believes it is in the best interest of the child to maintain a consistent relationship with both parents. Some type of shared custody is usually preferred. Sole custody can be granted if it is proven to be in the child’s best interest.
If you’re getting a divorce, you and your ex may not be on the best terms. Creating a parenting plan requires co-parents to discuss a variety of matters that they are both likely passionate about. This can lead to disagreements and may be difficult to navigate without assistance. An experienced North Carolina family law attorney can help co-parents work together to create a parenting plan document that serves both their interests and, ultimately, the best interests of their children.
While this can be a difficult process, an attorney can act as a mediator so you can each have some say in how you co-parent rather than leaving it all up to the court to decide.
Additionally, an attorney will guide you through the process of developing a parenting plan to make sure all crucial elements are included, as well as other details judges appreciate seeing. Our attorneys are experienced in North Carolina family law and understand what the court looks for and considers to be in the best interest of children.
Effective parenting plans are detailed and specific. At a minimum, they will include information about child custody and visitation schedules and plans for medical decision-making. However, a parenting plan is not just for the court. It is a tool co-parents can use to provide structure to their co-parenting relationship, so the more detailed it is, the more it will benefit you and your children.
In North Carolina, child support is paid until the child turns 18 years old. If the child is still in high school when they turn 18, it could be paid until age 20, but it would stop once they graduate high school. If you are paying child support for multiple children, you will still need to pay for the other children, but payments will stop as each child graduates or turns 20, whichever occurs first. If you or your ex have a significant change in financial circumstances before your shared children turn 18, you may be able to request a modification to the child support order.
Establishing a parenting plan works best when co-parents work together, but this level of cooperation is not always a reality. You can create a parenting plan on your own and submit it to the court for approval. Keep in mind what the court considers when determining what is in the best interest of the child, so if your parenting plan is very one-sided without good reason, the judge will likely make several adjustments.
In North Carolina, custody is determined by a judge who considers what is in the best interest of the children involved. This generally consists of joint custody, which allows the child to maintain a positive and consistent relationship with both parents. See the section titled “Best Interest of the Child” above to learn about other factors the court takes into consideration when determining what is in the child’s best interest.
A good first step in developing a parenting plan is to discuss the idea of creating one with your child’s other parent. Creating a plan together usually leads to the best outcome for all parties involved, but it can be a difficult process when you are not on the best terms during a divorce. Getting the help of an experienced family law attorney is a great next step, as they can act as a mediator and ensure your plan is detailed before it is given to the court for review.
Each divorce case is unique, and this is especially true when children are involved. At The Law Offices of Aimee E. Cain, we specialize in family law and have extensive experience helping co-parents develop parenting plans while going through a divorce. As certified mediators, we understand this is a sensitive topic and a stressful time in your life. We aim to help you navigate this process with as little additional stress as possible.
In addition to helping you develop a parenting plan, we can also support you in all of your divorce and family law-related issues. We can work with you and your ex through a mediation process to come to other terms throughout your divorce, or we can represent you in court proceedings as needed. Contact The Law Offices of Aimee E. Cain today to have a lawyer assess your case and help you determine the next steps to take to safeguard your and your children’s futures.