Co-parents involved in child custody cases may agree to parenting plans. A parenting plan is an agreement between parents of a child that discusses their rights and responsibilities moving forward. Parenting plans are common when couples who have a child or children together decide to divorce, separate, or break up. You do not need to be married or divorcing to agree to this kind of plan. If you are pursuing custody of your child or plan to split up with your co-parent, you need to have a parenting plan in place.
Why Do You Need a Parenting Plan?
Parenting plans set expectations for each parent regarding child custody. They explain how both parents will fulfill the responsibilities of caring for their child’s needs and establish each parent’s right to parent the child.
Having a clear, detailed parenting plan in writing protects both parents and the child because it makes everyone’s obligations clear. Verbal agreements alone are not sufficient when it comes to something as important as child custody. The health and safety of your child, as well as your relationship with your co-parent, are at stake. Make sure you have a written parenting plan in place to protect everyone involved.
Elements of a Parenting Plan
Parenting plans, including custody agreements and consent agreements, include key pieces of information about legal and physical custody. Your parenting plan should discuss legal custody, which refers to a parent’s ability to make major decisions on behalf of their child. For example, legal custody encompasses authorizing medical treatment for your child and deciding where your child goes to school.
In addition, your plan should discuss physical custody. This refers a parent’s right to have their child in their physical care and the allocation of your child’s time with each parent. Parents can share legal and/or physical custody, or one parent can have sole custody. The other parent may have the right to regular visitation with the child.
Moreover, parenting plans often address issues such as:
- How visitation will work for the non-custodial parent
- Details of custody on school holidays
- When parents can have custody of the child to take him or her on vacation
- Specifics of educational choices, such as who will pay for private school
- How parents will approach religious education with their child
- Details of how the parents will communicate about custody and the child’s needs (for example, whether to use only written communications or whether to speak in person)
Because parenting plans can include so many important issues that affect your child, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney before you agree to one. Your child custody attorney can advise you on the scope of your legal right to custody. In addition, your attorney may be able to help you negotiate the terms of a parenting plan before you agree to it.
Negotiating the Terms of a Parenting Plan
During separation, divorce, or a break-up, you may have the opportunity to negotiate on important issues affecting your life moving forward. For example, some parents go to mediation to decide their child custody arrangements. Others use the North Carolina collaborative divorce process. Your child custody lawyer can assist you during negotiations regarding a parenting plan. You will need help evaluating your options and asserting your rights.
Changes to Parenting Plans
You may create your parenting plan in one of several contexts: in court before a judge, working with a mediator, or with your lawyers’ help prior to a separation or during a collaborative divorce. Different types of parenting plans include custody agreements and consent agreements.
Whichever type you use, your plan may need to change as time goes on. As time passes after you have made a parenting plan, your child gets older and your family’s needs could change substantially. You will want to follow all the proper legal processes for altering it, rather than reaching an informal agreement with your co-parent. Doing so protects you and your child. It also avoids the situation where you agree to an informal change in the plan but your co-parent goes too far. If you believe that it is time to change your parenting plan, reach out to your lawyer again for assistance.
New Direction Family Law Is Here to Help!
When you need advice on child custody, the team at New Direction Family Law is available today to evaluate your options. We will work hard toward your best outcome and help you understand your legal rights. Our North Carolina attorneys are knowledgeable, effective, and compassionate professionals with decades of combined legal experience. We proudly serve clients in Wake, Johnston, and Durham counties. Visit New Direction Family Law at our website or call us at (919) 646-6561 to schedule a consultation.