In child custody cases, parents must submit a parenting plan (otherwise known as a custody arrangement). If you agree on the terms of the agreement, you can file the parenting agreement jointly. However, if you cannot reach an agreement, both parties can submit a proposed plan to the court for review. A judge will consider which plan best benefits the child as well as the following factors:
- Each parent’s willingness to foster a relationship between the child and the other parent and how the plan shows that willingness
- The relationship between the child and each parent as well as with their siblings
- The child’s special needs and if the plan adequately addresses those needs
- The child’s wishes (if they are mature enough to share their preference)
- Any information or factors deemed relevant
What Should I Consider When Drafting a Parenting Plan?
Under Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute § 5331, parenting plans must include details concerning:
- The child’s education and religious involvement
- Transportation arrangements (i.e. drop-off and pick-up locations and times in joint parenting cases)
- Scheduling information concerning each parent’s parenting time and arrangements for holidays and school vacations
- Procedures for proposing changes or discussing breaching the agreement
- Any other matter the court requires and/or that serves the best interest of the child
Other important considerations when creating a parenting plan include:
- Communication rules. When your child is with their other parent, will they be allowed to video chat or call one another? If so, during what times?
- Co-parenting communication. How do you plan to communicate with the other parent? If you all are not on the best terms, you may consider requiring most communication be done through a parenting app (i.e. Coparently, Our Family Wizard, Cosi, 2Houses, etc.).
- Expenses. Will either parent be paying child support? How will your child’s cost of living and other expenses be paid for? If you are co-parenting, you may share the financial responsibility for child-related bills.
- Family and friends. Are there certain people that you do not want around your children, including the other party’s family or friends? You may consider outlining guidelines concerning the time and places that your children can spend with certain individuals.
Developing a Parenting Plan in Pennsylvania
Wondering how to craft the perfect parenting plan for your family. Here are some things that you should think about when you design your parenting plan.
- Be mindful of the language included in the parenting plan. If you work with an attorney, they can help you ensure you proper terms and positive/neutral language in your plan. Because your attitude towards the other parent is an important factor in making determinations, you don’t want how you refer to them or the parenting plan (i.e. battle and dispute have a different tone/connotation than custody plan or arrangements).
- Consider each parent’s current responsibilities. In designing your parenting plan, you should think about what each parent currently handles as it relates to parenting responsibilities ( i.e. school or extracurricular activity drop-offs and pick-ups, homework help, packing lunches, etc.). Having a clear vision of what you each do now can help you determine what kind of schedule would suit you and how you want to handle certain responsibilities in the future.
- Look at various types of joint and sole custody schedules. As we mentioned, you will need to outline each parent’s parenting time in your plan, and there are a lot of ways that you can divide time spent with each parent (i.e. week on/week off, 70-30 schedule, etc.). Certain plans work better for certain families based on their schedules, needs, and child’s age.
- Consider your child’s developmental age. Your child’s age can impact what type of schedule will be best for them. It can also impact how often they may need to see the other parent and other facets that affect your parenting plan (i.e communication rules, educational needs, etc.).
- Prioritize your child and their needs. Just as the court considers their wishes, you should also listen to and consider what your child wants concerning who they want to live with and the time they want to spend with their other parent. Even if you and your potential co-parent do not always see eye to eye, you should focus on your child and what will benefit them.
Contact Our Firm Today
At William Kirby Law, Family Law Attorneys, our attorney has nearly twenty years of experience, and our team is dedicated to offering clients high-quality legal services. If you need help drafting a parenting plan in a contested or uncontested child custody, we are here to help you protect your best interest as well as your child’s and advise of your best options.Schedule a case evaluation today by completing this form or telephoning (215) 515-9901.