What Is a Permanent Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is an arrangement between two parents providing details about what each parent will provide to the child. It addresses various topics, from holidays, birthdays, drop-offs, and even transportation. It is legally binding, and both parties must agree and ensure they can abide by the plan.

A good parenting plan will consider everyone’s needs and helps work out the kinks while keeping everyone on a schedule. A judge will have to approve the plan, and you should have a Maryville child custody attorney protecting your best interests.

What do you include in your parenting plan?

The most important part of a parenting plan is the schedule. We are not talking about the yearly holiday schedule but a residential schedule outlining day-to-day activities. Within the plan, you address who has legal custody, vacation time, holidays, school, and medical records. Essential items for your parenting plan include:

  • Involvement with extracurricular activities
  • Financial childcare responsibly
  • Special needs of the child
  • Child’s parental preference
  • Child’s relationship with each parent
  • Parent’s ability to put the child’s needs first
  • How parents will handle conflict and disagreements
  • How parents will address questions the child has about the parenting plan
  • Religious upbringing
  • Communication between the parents

The goal of a parenting plan is to address issues before they happen so that everyone can have a healthy relationship and resolution. When the parents cannot agree, they can reference the parenting plan to determine how to proceed. The residential parent may have more say in day-to-day decision making, because they are with the child more often, but do not have the final say for the agreement nor for matters that must be decided (legally) by both parents.

How to create a parenting plan that works for you

Separations are often contentious, and parents must remember the parenting plan encourages parties to focus on a common goal: the child. It also helps them control the outcome of the case. If a judge needs to come in and create a parenting plan, they will use a basic formula, and the people who know your child best – you and your ex – won’t be the ones determining your child’s future.. You will not have much say in the specifics of the outcome. The parenting plan is essential because the court will also include it in your child custody arrangement.

You can establish a parenting plan at any time, and there are online tools to get you started. You can also work with a Maryville parenting plan lawyer. Parents must work together to establish these plans and ensure everyone can benefit, especially the child. Parenting plans must also allow room for flexibility because schedules can change. Revisions and compromise are standard in making these plans.

When does the judge determine your plan?

If nothing works and the parents cannot agree on the plan, the issue goes before a judge. The court will all available information when creating a final custody order. In Tennessee, judges are prohibited from considering the gender of the parents in custody matters, so the mother will not automatically get custody. Parents must take various steps to reach an agreement, including using a mediator. The court only cares about the child’s best interest, and they do not care about the parent’s needs or wants.  

Can you modify a parenting plan once it’s in place?

Changes happen, especially as children grow older. They can change hobbies and interests, and the original parenting plan no longer benefits anyone. Additionally, their preferences regarding which parent they want to spend time with will also change. Conversely, parents can change jobs, move or have another drastic change. While changes are a part of life, your plan must also change.

When there are minor changes, the court might not consider your motion because you must prove there was a substantial change in circumstances. The court is not keen on changing custody orders for minor disputes because they want the child to have a consistent schedule. Reasons that qualify for parenting plan modifications may include the following:

  • Job loss
  • A new job with a different salary or that requires a move
  • Failure to adhere to the current plan
  • Substantial lifestyle changes of one parent
  • Child’s needs have changed, especially due to an injury or illness

The original parenting plan outlines how disputes are handled among the parents. Suppose you need a schedule change because you are traveling for work when it is your turn to have the child. The dispute in the schedule must be handled by the parents and not the court. You must review your parenting plan for steps to resolve this dispute.

Other items to consider in your parenting plan

A standard parenting plan does not cover your needs, and you must address all of your concerns. Other considerations for your parenting plan include:

  • How stepparents should be referred to
  • Disciplining of the child
  • Relationships with other family members like cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents
  • The military deployment of either parent
  • Who is listed as an emergency contact
  • Expenses like gifts, trips, and extracurricular activities
  • Activities the child cannot participate in
  • Introduction to new partners

Anything you can think of, you should discuss with your Maryville family law attorney. We can advise you on what you can and should include in your parenting plan. We will also work with the other parent and their attorney to reach a middle ground on specific topics.

Parenting plans benefit the child by removing confusion and ensuring they can maintain a relationship with both parents. Work with a Maryville child custody lawyer to create a plan that works for you. Depending on individual circumstances, you can make your plan as detailed as you want. Call the office of Shepherd & Long, P.C., or complete our contact form to discuss your options today.