Family Formation Lawyer
If you and your child’s other parent are no longer going to be parenting under the same roof, whether due to a divorce, legal separation, or a romantic split – and you both intend to sustain active parenting roles – the family court judge assigned to your custody case will likely require you draft a parenting plan. Parenting plans, which are sometimes called parenting agreements, help to set the expectations for a co-parenting relationship.
By setting legally-enforceable expectations concerning the ways in which you’ll co-parent and how your co-parenting relationship will function on a practical level, you’ll better ensure that preventable tensions don’t derail your attempts to parent your child in a healthy environment.
Crafting the Terms of the Agreement
As an experienced family lawyer – including those who practice at AttorneyBernie.com – can confirm, the parenting plan terms that serve the needs of one co-parenting relationship may not serve the needs of another. As a result, it’s important to avoid making assumptions about whether another family’s parenting plan structure will serve you and your child to the greatest possible extent.
In the event that you and you co-parent can’t agree on some of the terms of your parenting agreement, a judge will be called upon to intervene. This isn’t usually an ideal situation because no parent likes to leave the fate of their time with their child in the hands of a third party. Yet, this situation is sometimes unavoidable. In the event that a judge is called upon to make a ruling about your parenting agreement, they will base their decision on their interpretation of the “best interests of the child” standard. As a result, you’ll want to frame any proposed terms of your parenting agreement to meet this standard proactively. That way, if your custody situation become contentious, you’ll already be working from a potentially winning frame of mind.
Meeting the Best Interests of the Child Standard
The ”best interests of the child” standard is the frame of reference that every family law judge in the country is bound to respect. With that said, each judge’s biases and priorities influence how they believe that this standard should be applied. An attorney can advise you as to whether the parenting plan terms you’re proposing are likely to actively serve your child’s best interests in ways that are defensible in the event that you need to go to court.
You know your child best. What is critical is that you both keep your child’s best interests at the forefront of your mind when crafting parenting plan terms – instead of, say, becoming preoccupied with not letting your ex “win” their preferred terms – and that you can clearly explain why your terms serve your child’s best interests.
Take care to make the terms of your plan structured enough that everyone involved can plan accordingly but flexible enough so that “life” is allowed to happen. Keep in mind that too-rigid terms can land you and your ex right back in court, arguing about minor violations of the terms of your plan.