The separation or divorce of a couple with children requires planning to accommodate the needs of the children going forward. In California, parenting plans create legal agreements that specify custody and visitation. These plans vary in length and detail but generally need to cover at least three basic points. They are schedules, vacations/holidays and medical care.

A parenting plan becomes official when both parents sign it, a judge signs it and the document is filed with the court. This gives the plan the status of a court order, according to the Judicial Branch of California. The primary purpose of the plan is to establish consistent schedules for the children on weekdays and weekends. For children who are in school, parents need to determine who is responsible for getting the children to and from school. If the duty is shared, then those details must be outlined.

The plan also needs to explain how vacations and holidays are handled. Parents can decide ahead of time who has the children on major holidays. The requirement that a parent be notified if the other is traveling with the children can also be included.

As for medical care decisions, the plan should specify if one or both parents have the authority to approve medical care. This helps prevent disputes and delays, especially in emergencies.

A formal parenting plan helps avoid misunderstandings and arguments as parents determine their child custody agreement. During the drafting of a parenting plan, an attorney can advise a parent on his or her legal rights to travel, make medical decisions and receive reasonable accommodations for schedule flexibility, among other issues. Parenting plans with clear and specific details offer parents a tool that will benefit their children.

Source: Judicial Council of California, “Parenting Plans“, January 04, 2015