Going through a divorce can be an emotionally difficult situation. Couples who have children may find it to be even more complicated. Parents and children will need to transition from being a single unit to a two-family situation, where both parents spend time with the children. In South Carolina, custody is not automatic. Both parents are expected to provide care for their children, including fair child support. Physical custody refers to the location where the children reside most of the time. In many cases, the non-custodial parent will have visitation with the children, according to a parenting plan.
A parenting plan is a detailed document that outlines the way child visitation and other important issues will be handled. A parenting plan is required in cases where parents are not in agreement as to the custody arrangements. However, a parenting plan is instrumental in establishing a stable, happy, environment where the children will thrive. Parents who take the parenting plan seriously are most likely to achieve a more successful result. Parenting plans must address the most basic concerns regarding the children which include providing for them physically, emotionally, and financially.
Detailed parenting plans should provide instructions that both parents can easily follow. The plan should include when weekly visitation will take place, and how children will be transferred between parents. The plan should cover how days off of school will be handled, and where children will spend holidays and vacations. The purpose of the plan is to aid parents in providing successful parenting arrangements after a divorce. The more detailed the plan, the less confusion there will be later on.
What to Include in a Parenting Plan
The parenting plan is a useful tool that will help guide families after a divorce. Some of the important things to include are:
- Physical Custody;
- How the Child Will Be Transported Between Parents;
- Provisions for Exchanging the Child;
- Schedule of Where the Child will Spend Holidays;
- How the Child Will Spend School Breaks and Summer Vacations;
- How Health Needs Are to Be Handled;
- Special Provisions for Extra-Curricular Activities;
- How Unexpected Expenses Will Be Handled;
- How Parents Will Pay for Large Expenses (Such as College);
- Stipulations About Moving Out of Town;
- Provision for How Parents Are to Communicate With Each Other; and
- Method for Resolving Disputes.
The best parenting plans are those that have been properly reviewed and that cover most possible situations that may arise. One of the most important aspects of the plan outlines how you and your former spouse will communicate with each other regarding the child. Both parents should agree as to the acceptable method of communication, understanding that parents must talk to each other on a regular basis in order to provide the best possible support for their children.
Parents do not always easily agree with each other regarding all of the matters that are part of the parenting plan. When parents disagree, they may require help in resolving the problem areas. Very often, your divorce attorney may be your first source of resolution for these matters. Your lawyer has a great deal of experience working through similar situations and can often assist in providing you with some resolution alternatives that may be agreeable. In cases where the problems are serious, the court may require parents to seek assistance through a mediator.
Mediation is an option for those who are unable to come to an agreement about the parenting plan, or other important areas of the divorce. Mediators are impartial professionals who are trained to facilitate resolution to difficult stalemates. Mediation may be a solution when the process is stalled. Keep in mind that if you do not come to an agreement on the parenting plan that you can both agree to, the judge will likely put a standard plan into effect. This plan may not provide enough detail on the issues you require, so it is imperative that you take steps to create a plan together.
Finalizing a Plan
For a parenting plan to be useful it needs to be included in the divorce agreement. The parenting plan may be submitted to the judge for review and approval. Generally, as long as the plan is in the best interest of the child and the parents are in agreement, the plan will be approved by the court. The court will put a standard plan into effect when parents do not agree on one. The final plan will be made part of the divorce decree and becomes a legal document.
While you and your former spouse have made every effort to put a good plan into effect, sometimes circumstances change and modifications are necessary. A well-written plan should include instructions regarding what types of changes are allowed, and how to go about making changes if they are needed. Simple changes to visitation dates or times may be agreeable to both parents. However, more complex situations happen, for example, when one parent wants to move out of town with the child. While minor changes are expected, especially as children become older, major changes could be problematic when parents do not agree. A court hearing is necessary to put changes in place and modify the original parenting plan.
Help from a Skilled Attorney
Putting together a good parenting plan can be a daunting undertaking for parents. There are many complex issues that should be reviewed, and there are many considerations including those that affect the family both now and in the future. There are also financial concerns that should be reviewed. An experienced divorce attorney knows the current laws and will provide you with guidance to assist you in making important decisions regarding your children. When you are divorcing with children, you need to put an emphasis on a parenting plan. If you are going through a divorce and need help with a parenting plan, contact an skilled and experienced family law attorney in Greenville at Greenville Family Law to discuss your case.