It is hard for the government to tell people how to parent their child. For that reason, when a set of parents gets divorced many courts will require them to develop their own parenting plan. One or both parents will often hire a parenting plan attorney to help with this process.
It can be costly to get a lawyer involved, but it will usually be well worth it because that investment in legal help can create a plan that the parents will rely on for years to help minimize conflicts when raising their child.
Parenting plans and the courts
When a parenting plan is developed during a divorce, it is usually approved by the court as part of the final divorce decree.
A judge will often review the plan and sometimes hold a hearing where the parents will have to answer some basic questions and the parenting plan attorney may be required to explain why the plan should be approved. The judge usually must determine that the parenting plan is in the best interest of the child, and will also try to ensure that each parent voluntarily signed the agreement.
Some family courts go so far as to help parents put together a custody plan. The Florida Court system, for example, publishes a parenting plan form and it says that all parents should use that form or something similar in order to develop a parenting plan that will ultimately be approved by the court.
The court requires a plan that will have “adequate detail” about how the parents will share the daily tasks associated with raising the children, as well as how the child will share time with each parent. Major items like health care, school, and extracurricular activities need to be explained, and the parents should explain how they will communicate with each other and the children. A good parenting plan attorney can help make sure you do not miss any required items.
Parenting plan violations
Parents are usually bound by their parenting plans after a court approves them. As a result, parents must follow the agreement or they can be punished by the courts.
Courts do not like to be bothered with every little thing. For example, if mom drops the child off at dad’s house late one day, then a judge is not going to want to be asked to fix that problem. Bigger problems should go to a judge, though. If one parent consistently disregards an important part of a parenting plan then it might be time for the court to get involved.
For example, if the parenting plan says that the child should always be dropped off at the mother’s house at 7:00 p.m., and the father routinely makes the kid take a cab instead, then court action might be necessary.
A parenting plan attorney might first be used to send a formal warning letter to the father, and then if the father refuses to change his behavior the court may have to order the father to conform to the agreement. If he refuses, the court can hold the father in contempt and punish him with fines or even jail time.