There is a big question divorcing parents must contend with: How should they divide their time with the kids? For many Tennesseans, the answer to this is a Parenting Plan. In any divorce that involves time-sharing and children under the age of 18, the separating couple must agree to a parenting plan.
It’s up to the divorcing couple to write out this arrangement. So, what type of information should parents include?
Core elements of a Parenting Plan
With a Parenting Plan, exes can make decisions about costs and time-sharing from the outset, laying the groundwork for the years ahead. At a bare minimum, this plan should explain:
- How they will share and be responsible for daily parenting tasks.
- The time-sharing schedule, specifying exactly when the child or children will be with each parent.
- Who is responsible for decisions related to health care and education, including the address that gets used for school-boundary determination.
- How each parent will communicate with the child or children, including methods and types of technology.
Parenting Plans should be extremely detailed. For example, which parent is allowed to register a child for extracurriculars? And will the parents split the cost? One may want to explain which parent is responsible for transportation when exchanging a child. And think ahead – which parent will have the child on holidays? Will it rotate?
Can the court reject the plan?
Once the divorcing couple agrees to a Parenting Plan, they submit it to the court for consideration. The judge can either approve the arrangement as-is or make changes they deem to be necessary. (If the parents can’t agree on a Parenting Plan at all, then the courts will make a plan for them.)
The court’s goal is to ensure the agreement is in the best interests of the child. That means taking into account things such as:
- The mental and physical health of each parent.
- What the child wants.
- How long the child has lived in their current home and whether they need to remain there.
- The commitment of each parent to having raised the child so far.
- Whether either parent might say negative things about the other to their child.
- Any other factor the judge thinks is relevant.
While it may be tempting to view a Parenting Plan as homework, try to think of it another way. It can be a chance to answer any lingering questions before they lead to the types of disagreements and arguments that can impact a child.