In both Kansas and Missouri, any order of child custody must be accompanied by a detailed Parenting Plan that sets out the specific responsibilities and privileges for each parent with regard to physical custody, and generally a parenting plan will set out a specific schedule of physical custody for each parent.
What Must be Contained in a Parenting Plan?
A Parenting Plan is required to contain a specific written schedule detailing when the child or children will be in the temporary physical custody of each parent, including plans for holidays, the child’s birthday, the parent’s birthdays, weekday and weekend schedules for school age children, summer vacations, methods of transportation, locations for transfers, appropriate times for telephone or video conference access, procedures for notifying the other parentif a deviation from the plan is necessary, and any restrictions or limitations required for either parent. Overriding any parenting plan prepared, the parties must work to develop a plan that is in the best interests of the child or children and when the parenting plan is entered and ordered by the court, the court must determine that the parenting plan is in the best interests of the child.
Additionally, a Parenting Plan must contain a specific written plan for legal custody and needs to detail the decision-making rights and responsibilities of each parent, including (but not limited to) decisions relating to education, health care providers, extracurricular activities, child care providers, communication procedures, and dispute resolution procedures.
Finally, a Parenting Plan must also contain a plan for how the parties will share the financial support and expenses of the child, including any child support one parent will pay to the other parent, who shall maintain the child’s medical and dental insurance, and how to handle educational, transportation, child care and extraordinary expenses.
A Parenting Plan is a vital part of resolving any child custody case. Do not spend the resources to litigate or prepare a custody case only to end up with a poorly drafted or ambiguously worded Parenting Plan. This will only serve to create problems and future issues. Often poorly prepared parenting plans can result in a necessity to return to court much sooner than would otherwise be required. A well-drafted parenting plan will hopefully assist you and the other parent with reducing conflict, having a better co-parenting relationship and working with one another in following a clear and understandable parenting plan.
Do I Need Help in Getting a Parenting Plan Prepared?
Given that some families live under a parenting plan for many years to come, it is important that you have the benefit of a skilled and experienced attorney to help you carefully draft a parenting plan that anticipates your family and your children’s needs and has the detailed information you need to meet the children’s needs.
A solid parenting plan that clearly articulates all of the necessary components will serve your family a co-parenting blueprint outlining the rights and responsibilities of each parent for the child or children. Absent finding that some kind of restrictions are necessary for the best interests of the child, the court is likely to determine that frequent and regular contact with both parents is best for the child.
What are some reasons that may prevent a court from awarding frequent and regular parenting time or contact?
There could be many reasons or factors that a judge will consider in making determinations to restrict a parent’s contact, however, some common considerations can be domestic violence, physical abuse, neglect, mental illness, drug or alcohol or other substance abuse, an extended choice by a parent to be absent or uninvolved with the child, a history of verbal or emotional abuse directed toward the child or other various concerns. If any of these concerns apply, it is imperative that you work with an attorney who is familiar with both, the judge’s beliefs (in your particular case) about protecting children and an attorney who is experienced in finding creative solutions to protect and meet the needs of your children. Often creative solutions can make the difference between a difficult parenting plan that is hard or impossible to follow and one that finds progress and success between your child and his or her other parent.
If there are no factors required limited contact, what is a “normal” parenting plan?
In short, there is no “normal” parenting plan. It is important that every unique family find a solution and a plan that works for the needs of the family. Often the considerations can include the work schedule(s) of the parents, the school or daycare schedules of the children, the extracurricular activities of the children, the child care arrangements available for the children, the extended family or other support available to the parents, any special mental health or other physical needs of the children, among a huge variety of other factors. Again, knowing every family is unique, it will serve your family the best to have a creative family law attorney in your corner who can help you come up with unique solutions that will meet your needs, the other parent’s needs and most importantly, the specific unique requirements of your children.
In many families, if there is more than one child, the parents may find that cooperating to meet the individual needs of their children best helps everyone involved. For example, in some families, one child is very involved in an extracurricular activity or sport or has special medical or therapy needs such that the parents can work together to allow one parent to meet one child’s needs, the other parent to meet the other child’s needs and then switch up those responsibilities. In other families, it helps build meaningful relationships for everyone by allowing each parent to spend special weekday evenings with each child individually. There is no limit to the creativity that can be put into a parenting plan that meets your family’s individual needs.
Finally, in some families where a parent works a non-traditional job such as a weekend schedule, medical schedules involving three weekly 12-hour shifts, firefighter schedules (often involving 24-hour shifts) or other graveyard shifts, often the parents can find unique schedules that maximize their children’s time with each parent with some effort and creativity. In finding unique solutions, often costly daycare or other childcare expenses can be avoided for both parents.
Should We Include a Right of First Refusal Provision in Our Parenting Plan?
This is a frequently debated issue. A right of first refusal provision generally means that if the parent who is designated to have custody or parenting time is unavailable due to other personal commitments, work requirements or for any other purpose, in a right of first refusal situation, the other parent would be offered time with the child or children before the custodial parent would offer the time to a family member, a new spouse or significant other or even hiring a child care provider. In theory, a right of first refusal provision should help to maximize meeting the needs of the children and be in their best interests, however, because parents so frequently fight and have disagreements over the use and enforcement of these provisions.
How Should Time with Our Children Be Arranged or Scheduled?
There are hundreds of variations in how the children’s time can be divided between the parents. For example, in 50/50 parenting plans, some parents divide the children every week, every two weeks, every two days, every three days, or they have rotations where every other weekend is rotated and then either the weekdays or rotated or the weekdays are consistently divided each week. Beyond that, some parents have schedules where the children are with one parent during the school week and then visit the other parent every weekend or every other weekend. Some children do unique rotations where they are with a parent two weekends, followed by one weekend with the alternate parent. Some children see the non-residential parent for a weekday each week to break up a lengthy week while other children do not. There are hundreds of different variations of parenting schedules and it is important that you have a family advocate who can creatively help you find solutions that meet your family’s needs.
At Pingel Family Law, we pride ourselves in helping you find creative solutions for parenting plans that meet and serve the best interests of your children. Let our experience and child-centered approach work for your family. Call today to schedule your consultation at (816) 208-8130. Your family’s future and meeting the needs of your children with a creative parenting plan depends on your ability to get the best possible advocacy in place. Call Pingel Family Law today.
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