You and your spouse will still need to parent and raise your children when you’re divorced.
If you’re anything like most people, you know that this will be addressed as part of your divorce proceedings. However, most are unaware what a parenting plan looks like, what it contains, and how you actually reach an agreement when it seems unlikely, if not impossible, that you and your spouse can agree.
In this article, we’ll address all three issues so when you meet with your Naperville divorce lawyer, you’ll know which questions to ask and have a better idea of what’s to come.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan sounds like what it is: a plan describing how you’re going to care for and raise your children. But while it sounds simple, actually negotiating the plan can be a time-intensive, challenging process.
This isn’t to say that you can’t create a parenting plan in a peaceful way. In fact, doing so is better for you and your children. It’s better for you because you’ll spend less time (and money) fighting with your spouse over children-related issues in court. It’s better for your children because every step you can take to make the divorce process less contentious is worth taking.
What is in a Parenting Plan?
Your parenting plan will be part of a document called the Allocation of Parental Responsibility Judgment. This is drafted during the divorce process, often before the final Judgment and Marital Settlement Agreement is complete. This is because the court prioritizes children’s issues above all else in your case and want to provide a stable, secure arrangement for your children during the remaining divorce proceedings and thereafter.
A parenting plan looks like every other court document – it’s often lengthy and will contain everything you and your spouse need to know about raising the children following the divorce.
But, what does it contain?
What Does a Parenting Plan Contain?
“Parenting plan” may seem like a broad term, and it is. However, there are several small details a parenting plan will contain, including:
- Custodial Arrangements – This means whether one parent is to be the custodian of the children or if you and your spouse will share responsibilities. In most divorces, spouses share the responsibilities unless there is a reason not to.
- Decision Making – Most parenting plans give parents joint decision making abilities. This means parents must come to an agreement on issues related to education, healthcare, and religion, amongst others. If you can’t reach an agreement with your spouse, you may be ordered to attend mediation on that issue to work things out.
- Information Exchange – This includes access to records and information for the children as well as each other. Your spouse is entitled to know where you live, your phone number, where you work, and whether or not you’re traveling for an extended period of time.
- Parenting Time – Parenting time is the most significant issue in most cases. The residential parent will have all parenting time other than set times during the week (often after school) when the non-residential parent has the children. Most parenting time schedules also alternate weekend visitation so that both parents receive two weekends per month with the children. Parenting time schedules will also divide holidays equally between parents on an alternating, odd-even basis. For example, if you enjoy parenting time on Thanksgiving in 2016, you won’t in 2017 and will likely receive time on another major holiday, like Christmas, instead.
- Healthcare, Extracurricular Activities, etc. – There are countless other issues that will be addressed in your parenting plan, including healthcare, extracurricular activities, and more. Of course, other issues may be addressed depending on your unique situation. That is something you should discuss with your Naperville divorce lawyer.
How a Parenting Plan Comes Together
Like almost all issues in your divorce, a parenting plan comes together through negotiation.
You’ll begin the negotiation process by discussing each of the separate issues to be addressed in your arrangement with your lawyer. You’ll disclose your position on issues with your lawyer when you meet. Then, your attorney will present these positions to your spouse’s attorney.
Your spouse’s attorney will also have your spouse’s preferences and demands. By comparing the two and discussing issues that are close, your attorney will begin to work out an agreement. In many cases, the attorneys are able to work out all issues, meaning there’s no need for mediation or alternative measures.
Once you’ve worked out an agreement, it will be finalized in the Allocation of Parental Responsibility Judgment. This Judgment will be entered by the court and be enforced thereafter. If either you or your spouse violate the Judgment, you may return to court to correct any issues.
Can the Parenting Plan be Changed?
Absolutely! All childrens-related issues are modifiable in divorce. This means that if the parenting schedule isn’t working or something changes, you can always return to court to make changes as necessary.
In fact, most judges expect changes to the Parental Responsibility Judgment over time. This is by nature of children growing up and having different needs, spending less time with their parents, and other related factors.
Contact Lawrence R. Surinak Ltd. for More Information on Parenting Plans
If you’re interested in learning more about parenting plans or are curious how a parenting plan may work in your case, contact Lawrence R. Surinak Ltd. Larry has over 35 years of experience in divorce law and can ensure you receive fair time with your children as well as a parenting arrangement you feel comfortable with moving forward.
Take advantage of your free, 30-minute consultation by calling Larry at 630-470-9990. If you prefer to schedule your consultation online, please fill out our form so we can reach out to you to determine the best arrangement.
We look forward to hearing from you and answering any questions about parenting plans or other divorce-related matters you need to know!