If you and your child’s other parent are ending your romantic relationship but both plan to remain active in your child’s life, it’s time to start thinking about constructing a parenting plan. Whether your relationship is ending in divorce, you’ve never been married, or you need to make allowances during a legal separation, the court is almost certainly going to insist upon a parenting plan as part of the resolution to your child custody case.
A parenting plan will help you to set legally-enforceable expectations for your co-parenting relationship as your family evolves. As an experienced Alameda County, CA family lawyer – including those who practice at Kempen & Company – can explain in greater detail, it is going to be important for you to keep the “best interests of the child” standard in mind as you draft your agreement.
The Best Interests of the Child Standard
The best interests of the child standard is the standard by which all family law judges in the U.S. are required to resolve child custody matters that become contentious. Meaning, if you and your child’s other parent can’t reach an agreement about the terms of your parenting plan, a judge will rule in favor of whatever position they believe reflects your child’s best interests. So, if you try to frame your decisions as answers to the question “How will the structure of this part of the agreement reflect the best interests of my child?” you’ll be in a strong position in the event that your negotiations break down and you and your child’s other parent need to take your disagreement to court.
Reaching an Agreement
It can be very, very easy to allow emotion to rule the negotiation process when it comes to drafting a parenting plan. You may be – very understandably – tempted to undermine your ex’s position simply because you deserve to win whatever your argument may be. However, if you’re hoping to reach an agreement without judicial intervention, focusing on drafting a workable parenting plan is going to need to be the order of the day. If you’re going to have a healthy co-parenting relationship moving forward, setting your differences aside during the drafting places is a genuinely optimistic way to begin the next phase of your family’s evolution.
As you work to reach an agreement, make sure to set reasonable expectations that allow everyone to have some stability and the ability to plan accordingly. But, also keep in mind that life happens. As a result, terms need to be reasonably flexible when possible. For example, you may decide that your child will spend their birthday with you every other year and their other parent every other year. But, you may also include the clarification that upon mutual agreement from both parents, two birthday year “placements” may be switched to accommodate some unforeseen circumstance, like the illness of one parent or the ability of one parent to take the child on the trip of a lifetime.