If you have children and are considering hiring a divorce lawyer or filing for legal separation, choosing to cooperate with your spouse in raising your children is one of the best and most important decisions you will make. A parenting plan is a legal document that outlines parents’ agreements about how they will raise their children after divorce or separation. It addresses parenting arrangements and should always reflect the best interests of your children.
It’s a lot to consider, and it’s important that no matter the relationship you have with the other parent, you always put the needs and happiness of your children first. This may be challenging, to parents because strong feelings between divorcing or separating spouses are customary. Ideally, your parenting plan should be the result of both parents communicating together about what is best for your children. If you and your spouse are unable to agree on the terms of your parenting plan, the court will impose them.
A good piece of advice when communicating about your parenting plan is to treat the relationship with the other parent as a business partnership. Focus on the “business” of raising your children and what is best for them and not on past or present conflicts between the two of you. If conflicts arise while discussing matters applying to your children, try to prioritize your children’s needs and what would be best for them. If conflicts arise in conversation and do not apply to your children, consider applying the phrase “agree to disagree” and move on to topics involving your children.
Good parenting plans ensure the best possible scenario for everyone involved. It sets out clear guidelines and expectations for how you will co-parent, thus easing cooperation and reducing conflict. It also creates a sense of routine, predictability and consistency during a time of extreme change and stress for your children. By having an agreed upon plan, children will know what to expect during this time of transition and are more capable of adapting to new patterns of day to day life.
There are several things to consider and include in your parenting plan. The following list gives a general overview of areas you should consider when creating your parenting plan.
A parenting plan is most helpful when it is detailed to your situation but is also realistic and flexible. When creating your parenting plan, take into consideration how well you communicate and negotiate with your spouse. Also consider that as future circumstances change, your ability to communicate effectively with the other parent may change as well. New relationships, time, new circumstances as your children age, etc. can affect your communication.
There are two types of child custody, legal and physical. Parents in Arizona usually have joint custody, or, if one parent is deemed unfit by the court, one parent may have sole custody. Keep in mind that a parent would be deemed unfit only under special circumstances, such as domestic violence, child abuse, drug/alcohol abuse, DUI, etc.
When parents have legal custody, they can make important decisions for their children regarding education, religion, healthcare, and other important decisions.
Physical custody determines who the children will live with. Arizona courts always order parents to share 50/50 custody of their children, unless there are special circumstances. There are many variations of schedules when it comes to joint custody; the Arizona court system provides several plan ideas for parenting time in their guide for parents.
Each parent has a legal obligation to contribute to the support of their children, whether those children are born in or out of wedlock or are adopted. The child support obligation takes financial priority over all other obligations the parents may have and establishes a standard of support based on the reasonable needs of the children and the ability to pay by each parent.
Every divorce or separation is different, and sometimes that means that there will be special circumstances you will need to consider. If there are especially stressful circumstances such as domestic violence, child abuse, drug or alcohol addiction, mental or psychological disorders, etc., utilizing legal guidance for your case is essential.
If your children’s physical, emotional, or mental well-being is at risk, your utmost priority is to protect them. Parents who are struggling with an uncooperative or violent spouse should seek help from an experienced Arizona family law attorney immediately.
It’s important to be flexible and willing to cooperate when it comes to deciding what holidays, vacations and school breaks children will spend with each parent because meaningful time spent with both parents is beneficial to children. Parents can choose to assign the same holidays and school breaks to a specific parent each year, but generally parents elect to rotate these events every other year. Include language that specifies the amount of time spent with each parent, pickup and drop-off details and how parents will communicate about upcoming holidays and travel. The schedule for holidays, vacations and school breaks takes priority over regularly scheduled parenting time.
It’s also important for parents to remember that their children may miss the parent they are not spending time with, so scheduling time for the children to regularly connect with the other parent can be helpful. Remember to give the other parent information about travel plans such as itinerary, how they can be contacted and where they will be staying. The other parent should also provide information of how they can be contacted in case of an emergency.
Parents are responsible to provide financial support for their children’s health-related expenses. They may decide together how health insurance costs for the children will be paid, or, if they are unable or unwilling to do so, the court will decide for them. Keep in mind that the courts will consider the following to determine how costs will be paid:
Parents are also responsible for uninsured or unreimbursed medical expenses. This includes co-pays, prescriptions and any other medical, dental, and/or vision costs as a result of a medically necessary treatment or procedure. Parents may decide on how these expenses are shared, or if unable or unwilling to decide together, the courts will decide for them.
Navigating divorce or legal separation is one of the most emotional and stressful life circumstances you will undergo, and sometimes that means you aren’t always clearly focused on the details of your future. At Jensen Family Law, we understand that the last thing you want for you and your children is more heartache and dysfunction. Establishing a stable parenting plan with one of our expert family law attorneys is the best way to ensure that you and your children are protected and prepared for the future. Contact us today to schedule a case evaluation.
We are the experts’ Divorce Attorneys in all matters of Family Law in Gilbert Arizona.
You can contact our office at the following times:
Monday – Friday 9:00am to 5:00pm
Telephone: (480) 900-2302 or send us an email.