One of the most difficult aspects of getting a divorce when you have children is writing the parenting plan. In Arizona, the presumption is that both parents will have equal parenting time with the kids. This means that they will spend 50% of their time with one parent and 50% of their time with the other.
Of course, in reality, it doesn’t always work out to entirely equal parenting time, but that’s typically the goal. The courts believe it’s good for the children to have time with both of their parents.
Why Are Parenting Plans Needed?
A parenting plan will be used to determine how the children are taken care of, and when it is well-written and comprehensive, it can be a good co-parenting guide. Ideally, the parents will be capable of working together to write the parenting plan, as it will tend to make raising the kids easier. It can help to keep you and your ex on the same page when it comes to various parenting situations.
The parenting plan can be as detailed as you need it to be, and it can cover a wide range of topics. While your plan might not include all of the topics below, it will likely contain several of them. The items that go into the plan can differ based on the age of the children, where you and your ex live in relation to one another, etc. The idea is to work together to develop a parenting plan that will be agreeable to both of you.
Parenting plans help to provide consistency and predictability. This is better for the children, and it helps to reduce the potential for conflict down the line. Children do better when parents cooperate. Courts tend to prefer when parents can reach agreements with parenting time and other issues.
It’s important to understand what the term legal custody means in Arizona. It refers to the ability to make major decisions regarding the health, education, and religious upbringing of the child. Most of the time, joint legal custody is preferred. This will allow both of the parents to have the ability to make decisions for their children. In some cases, when one parent is not fit to make these decisions, the other parent will receive sole legal custody.
Keep in mind that custody doesn’t have anything to do with parenting time. They are not the same thing, even though people often use the word custody interchangeably. Even when parents may have joint legal custody of the children, it does not always mean that they will have equal parenting time.
Parenting time is the amount of time that the child will spend with each parent. As mentioned, this is sometimes equal, but not always. You need to figure out a schedule that will work best for the children and both you and your ex.
You also have to think about the schedule for transportation between homes during parenting time exchanges. How will it work? Will you drop the kids off when your parenting time is over, or will your ex pick them up?
You should also include a plan on what you will be doing for the holidays and special dates, such as birthdays. Determine how the time will be shared for school breaks, vacations, etc. The best option, even though it might take some added time, is to work out this schedule for the next few years. Try to make sure that you and your ex can share those important dates. Maybe you can switch off holidays each year.
This might take some time and negotiation but hammering out all of the details now will be better than arguing with one another when the holidays roll around.
You also need to figure out how the children’s cost of living will be covered. One of the parents will have to pay child support, but this doesn’t always include all of the other areas of expense when it comes to the kids. Who will pay for school clothes, tuition, camp, medical expenses, food, extracurricular activities, etc.? Will the responsibilities be shared? Child support is supposed to cover the normal daily costs of raising a child, but it doesn’t account for all of those extra expenses. You should discuss them and add them to the parenting plan.
You should also consider how you and your ex will be able to contact the children when it’s not your parenting time. What will the rules be like? Will you allow phone calls and video chats with the other parent whenever they like or will there be limits? When it is one parent’s time with the kids, they don’t have to let the other parent communicate with them. You want to figure out what type of communication protocols you want to have in place.
Just remember, if you tell your ex that they shouldn’t be contacting the kids when it’s your parenting time, they have every right to say the same when it’s their parenting time. Ideally, you can come up with a solution that works for both of you and that allows the kids to talk with their parents whenever they need to.
Something else to consider when it comes to communication is how you will be communicating with your ex. If you are on decent terms with your ex, this should not be a problem. However, if you and your ex don’t get along, it could be a problem. Perhaps you will only talk online or maybe just on the phone, so you don’t have to see one another more often than necessary.
Things to Consider When Making a Parenting Plan
The details of the parenting plan will be different based on many factors. You have to consider the age and maturity of the child, as well as their personality and their attachment level to each parent. You should also think about special needs, the flexibility of everyone’s schedules, childcare arrangements, etc.
The more thought you put into your parenting plan the stronger it will be. It can help to guide you and your spouse on everything that happens with the children. Put in the work and develop a good parenting plan.