Crafting a Parenting Plan

Crafting a Parenting Plan
July 9, 2024

Children need a healthy relationship with both parents in order to thrive. Unless special or threatening circumstances exist, they would ideally have liberal and frequent access to both parents during childhood. However, divorce or separation can cause hard feelings that can sometimes prevent parents from seeing past their own hurt to make decisions that are best for their child(ren). Consistent, positive involvement with both parents plays a fundamental role in a child’s overall development, achievement, and adjustment. 

At Law Offices Of Cara L. Santosuosso, LLC we know how important it is for children to maintain relationships with both parents after divorce and we know what it takes to craft the best, most practical parenting plan for each family’s individual needs. This comes down to what forms the basis of everything we do–the children’s best interests.

Why A Parenting Plan Is A Must

Aside from the fact that stability and predictability bring children comfort when divorce is otherwise dividing their family, a parenting plan is also a requirement set by the state when a couple with children is seeking divorce in Ohio. A solid parenting plan helps to establish child custody arrangements and it becomes a legally binding document that outlines various rights, responsibilities, and expectations of both parents. The court handling your case is tasked with deciding where children will live, where children will attend school, and which parent is responsible for making certain important decisions about the child’s health, education, and more. This allocation of parental rights and responsibilities can lead to one parent being designated as a sole custodial parent, or the court may award shared parenting (aka joint custody) to both parties. As part of this decision, a parenting plan is vital to establishing and enforcing parenting time.

Many issues surrounding children can bring tension and conflict during divorce proceedings. But focusing energy and attention on a parenting plan can help to set enforceable expectations and these ground rules can help both parents to maintain a civil relationship–one of the best things they can do for their children. A parenting plan needs to be structured but also practical, workable for everyday life, and somewhat flexible to ensure that it can be more of a help than a hindrance. The security, predictability and consistency that a well-thought-out parenting plan affords is essential to a child’s wellbeing and to the smooth functioning of both parents’ separate lives. 

Working with an Ohio divorce attorney when crafting a parenting plan can also help to facilitate open discussion and cooperation between parents. In fact, the court prefers that parents reach agreements about parenting time on their own, since they will then be more likely to cooperate with the guidelines they set for themselves. Modeling cooperation, even when it is difficult, is a priceless lesson for children to witness and it ultimately creates a less stressful living environment for everyone involved.

What A Parenting Plan Includes

The Ohio Supreme Court provides guidelines to families on how to craft a successful parenting plan. Their digital document entitled Planning for Parenting Time: Ohio’s Guide for Parents Living Apart is a comprehensive overview of what to keep in mind during the planning process. There is no true standard parenting plan set by the state, because every family is different and every set of circumstances will vary. A skilled child custody attorney can help to iron out the details. 

Here are some highlights to keep in mind when drafting your own parenting plan: 

  • Plans will vary by countless factors, some main dividing points being the child’s age and developmental stage
  • Relocation and long-distance parenting are special circumstances to consider
  • There is no minimum or maximum amounting of parenting time
  • Circumstances such as child abuse, domestic violence, or substance abuse require special attention and a careful, often professionally-guided approach
  • Clearly state how decisions regarding children will be made
  • Provide a carefully considered schedule for parenting time
  • Center the parenting plan on the children’s needs and be ready to adjust/reconsider over time
  • Accept a bit of disruption and inconvenience for the child’s best interest

When formulating the ideal parenting plan for any situation, all parties should ask these questions of themselves to ensure that the children’s best interests are at the heart of the plan:

  • How old and mature is the child?
  • What sort of personality does the child have?
  • Is the child strongly attached to one or both parents?
  • Does any party have special needs?
  • How strong are the child’s relationships with siblings, other relatives, and friends?
  • What are the child’s extracurricular activities and level of involvement in their community?
  • How far apart do the parents live?
  • Are the parent’s schedules flexible or rigid?
  • Is childcare necessary?
  • Where will exchanges take place and is transportation available?
  • Are there cultural and/or religious practices and traditions to consider?
  • Are both parents able and available to care for all of the child’s needs?
  • If appropriate, according to age and maturity level, what are the child’s preferences?

Parents who cooperate to develop a parenting plan that works for their child(ren) can only benefit everyone in the long run. However, there are some negative behaviors that can commonly crop up among divorced families that can harm the children who are caught in the middle. Making a child choose between parents, using a child as a bargaining chip, putting the other parent down in front of the child or undermining their relationship with the other parent are just some of many negative habits to avoid. These cannot help a child to find stability and comfort, and will generally achieve the opposite. A parenting plan helps to set neutral ground rules that make relations between parents easier to manage, even in less-than-ideal situations.

How To Develop Your Own Parenting Plan

A comprehensive parenting plan is a must before a divorce or dissolution between parents can be finalized. It is usually best to craft a parenting plan that is unique to your situation. Working with a collaborative divorce lawyer who understands family law and child custody guidelines will be the best way to ensure that you include all the necessary stipulations and confirm that the most important aspects of your plan are not overlooked. Whether you start from scratch or simply adopt a court’s existing “standard” plan, this is a vital step that should not be glossed over during divorce proceedings. Taking the time to work through your and your child’s needs and preferences will go far to avoiding frustration and conflict in the future.

In the end, the truth is that there is no single approach to creating a parenting plan. It needs to speak directly to your child and their needs, while also taking into consideration both parents’ life situations. That said, there are some very general guidelines that can make the process easier and more productive:

  • Be flexible when outlining terms, always allowing for moments where life could get in the way
  • Set clear expectations when it comes to matters that could be confusing or ambiguous, like financial considerations
  • Embrace less standard forms of shared parenting, like virtual visitation, to keep the agreement dynamic and adaptive

Work With An Experienced Ohio Child Custody Lawyer

At the Law Offices Of Cara L. Santosuosso, LLC, our skilled collaborative divorce lawyers specialize in family law and can offer experienced help in figuring out child custody and parent coordination. We know how important it is for children to maintain relationships with both parents and we can help clients to craft the best, most practical parenting plan for their family’s individual needs. We take a thoughtful approach to the task of crafting your parenting plan and making it workable for everyone involved. At the same time, we are also prepared to advocate for your rights and your child’s best interests if things don’t go smoothly.

If you are currently considering or involved in a divorce proceeding and need help to craft a parenting plan that better addresses your child’s needs, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are here and ready to help.