Parenting Plans and Parenting Time
Parenting Plans are an alternative to the traditional custody designations. Parenting Plans must be used in lieu of a custody designation where both parents request it. It may also be ordered by the Court, unless there is domestic abuse or it is a paternity case.
A parenting plan must specify a schedule of time that each parent will spend with the child. There must also be a designation of decision-making responsibilities regarding the children. These two factors replace the traditional legal and physical custody designations. The parenting plan may substitute other terms for legal and physical custody (e.g. residential time or access). In addition, there must be a stated method by which parenting disputes will be resolved (for example, the use of mediation or parenting consultant). Parents may include other issues regarding the child in their parenting plans, such as what will happen if there is a move by one or both parents.
There is a requirement for the designation of legal and physical custodians in the final divorce decree for the sole purpose of enforcement of the decree in another state or in a country that requires such designations to enforce the decree. This is because not all states acknowledge and accept parenting plans as a legal form of custody. The designation can be sole or joint legal custody and sole or joint physical custody.
Parenting time is different from custody. Parenting time is the designated time the child or children have with each parent. The best interests of the child are the main factors in determining the parenting time for each parent.
Parents who have difficulty communicating with one another may find it helpful to use a Parenting Time Log or an online service, such as Our Family Wizard, that is designed so that the parents can effectively communicate information about the children without speaking to one another or emailing. These devices can minimize the conflict.