Arons & Solomon | September 18, 2017 | Articles
The divorce and custody specialists at Arons & Solomon believe loving and supportive parents should be closely involved in their children’s daily lives. If this isn’t the case, our team also works to protect children from dangerous environments of domestic violence, substance abuse, and neglect.
If you need to create a Parenting Plan, or update an existing plan, we can help.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A Parenting Plan (aka. custody arrangement) is a document that establishes the schedule, living arrangements, and major decision-making processes surrounding the co-parenting of a child. When a custody dispute arises, the plan provides the structure necessary to keep both parents on the same page (literally).
In the State of New Jersey, a Parenting Plan must be completed and agreed upon and signed by both parties before a divorce is finalized. This can be accomplished independently by the parents, with the assistance of a mediation program provided by the Superior Court of New Jersey, or with the assistance of the attorneys or a qualified mental health professional.
The courts will only accept a plan that serves the best interest of the child. If parents cannot agree on a co-parenting plan, the courts will establish one for them. This would generally happen after a custody trial, and an evaluation of the family by one or more mental health professionals.
What is in a Parenting Plan?
A complete Parenting Plan must address:
- Legal and physical custody of the child
- Primary residence of the child
- Financial child support
- Parenting time schedules for regular, holiday, and vacation days
- Health care and medical decision-making
- Rights and responsibilities of both parents
- Additional considerations, which may include: parental relocation, information-sharing between parents, interactions with new dating partners, college funding, dietary restrictions, religion, baby-sitting policies, special needs services, etc.
- Procedures to modify the plan and settle future disputes
Is a Parenting Plan legally binding?
Not necessarily. Even if both parties sign on the dotted line, a parenting plan does not become law until it is filed with the courts and executed by a judge.
Can a Parenting Plan evolve over time?
Yes. A change in life circumstances may warrant an update to the Parenting Plan. However, the parent requesting an amendment must either work out the modification with the other parent, or prove to the court that the change is in the best interest of the child.
Our divorce was uncontested and amicable. Do we really need a Parenting Plan?
Absolutely. A Parenting Plan is required to finalize a divorce in the State of New Jersey.
Beyond the legal requirement, a thoughtful Parenting Plan is vital to the success of a new family dynamic. Most parents don’t realize the sheer number of daily decisions they are making until they observe the scope and detail of a complete parenting plan.
When divorced co-parents reach a disagreement, they will have the structure of the agreement to guide their behavior. It saves time, money, and emotional stress. If co-parents do not have a parenting plan, they are more likely to settle future disputes in court.
Do I need a lawyer to make a Parenting Plan?
Technically no, but nobody should be “winging it” when it comes to a custody agreement. A Parenting Plan has a lot of moving pieces, and is often the most emotional part of a divorce.
A skilled divorce lawyer can help you organize the issues at hand, and provide perspective and guidance where needed. The “best interest of the child” is not just a phrase, it has a legal definition. A custody expert will make sure your Parenting Plan is compliant with all criteria established by the courts.