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How to Make a Parenting Plan

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What does a parenting plan include?

The two main parts of a parenting plan (also called a custody and visitation plan) are:

Custody and visitation orders also cover areas such as travel, conditions for visitation, PFDs, taxes, and health insurance.

Using the resources listed below, you may want the help of a counselor, mediator or co-parenting coach to develop a schedule that works for your family.

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How does a judge decide whether to order a specific parenting plan?

The court determines custody and visitation according to what arrangement is in the child’s best interests. To figure this out, the court considers a series of factors called the "best interest" factors which include:

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How does a judge decide the parenting plan if a parent wants to move out of state?

The judge considers all of the legal factors to decide what parenting plan is in a child’s best interests. One factor is 'the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity." This involves considering both the importance of staying in the same place and maximizing stability of the child’s relationships.

In cases where a parent wants to move with the child and the other parent wants the child to stay in the same community where he/she has been living, the judge uses a 2-step process to determine the best interests of the child.

  1. Is the planned move legitimate? (The reason for the move can’t be to deny the non-moving parent time with the child. Some examples of legitimate reasons may be a better paying job, enrolling in a special education program, family support.)
  2. If the move is legitimate, the judge considers the best interest factors to determine the arrangement that serves the best interests of the child. This requires looking at the consequences to the child both:

So the judge is supposed to look at the effect on the child if the child moved with the parent and if the child stayed without the parent.

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How does domestic violence affect a parenting plan?

A history of domestic violence by one or both parents can affect the parenting plan for your children. The law presumes that the parent who committed the domestic violence might not get custody and visitation unless he or she meets certain requirements. These may include completing a multi-week batterer’s intervention or substance abuse treatment program.

To find domestic violence, the law does not require the existence of a protective order or criminal charges. The divorce or custody judge may ask about domestic violence. Testimony about domestic violence by a parent or other witnesses can be enough information for the judge to find a domestic violence history that would impact the parenting arrangement.

Even if the parents agree on a shared parenting schedule, the judge may not order it if the judge finds there is a history of domestic violence.

If the judge does not find a history of domestic violence that would restrict how a parent’s parenting time will happen, you can still ask for specific provisions to structure the parenting time so that it is safe. Some options are described below.

If there has been domestic violence, you should talk with a lawyer about how this law will impact your case.

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What are some options to structure parenting time so that it is safe?

The judge will only know about your safety concerns if you state them in the documents you file and when you talk in court. Describe your concerns to the judge if you have concerns about:

If the judge is going to allow the other parent to have parenting time with the children, you can suggest ways to address your concerns. Some options include:

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What if I think the other parent should have no contact with our child(ren)?

If you think the other parent should not have contact with your children, you will need to convince the judge that it is in the children’s best interests. Generally, it is unusual for a judge to decide that a parent cannot see their children in a divorce or custody case. There is research that shows it is important for a child to have a relationship with both parents if possible and it can happen in a safe manner. If the judge finds the domestic violence presumption applies, the judge will usually permit supervised contact between the parent and the children while the parent is completing a batterer’s intervention or substance abuse treatment program. After the parent finishes the program and any other requirements the judge ordered, the judge may lift the supervised visitation restriction and allow a different parenting schedule that can include provisions to keep the parenting time safe.

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What resources can help with making a parenting plan?

It takes time and creativity to make the actual schedule, which is what the judge needs to issue a court order. When reviewing your proposal, the judge will want to know how and why the schedule is in your child(ren)'s best interest, which is the legal standard for deciding custody and visitation.

You need to think realistically about your schedule, the other parent’ schedule and your child(ren)’s needs. Don’t be afraid to try a few different options. Sometimes, adjusting just a few hours a week can really help reduce parental conflict.

The following sample scheduling chart can help you work out a weekly plan and calendars help think about the whole year:

You can also fill out:

This form provides the framework for you to state why the proposed parenting plan is in the child(ren)’s best interests. It goes through each of the best interest factors and has a space for you to write in specific information about how your plan addresses each factor. Remember the court uses the best interest factors to determine the custody and visitation arrangement. The court may use the information you provide in the Best Interest Affidavit in reaching the custody decision. It is an affidavit so it must be signed in front of a notary. The court clerk can notarize the document for free.

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What forms can I use to state what schedule is in our child(ren)’s best interest?

There are different forms that you can use to say what schedule you want. They include the basic topics that should be covered in court ordered plans. Read through to see which form will help you to organize your thoughts and develop a plan that will work:

If both parents agree:

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Rev. 9 April 2019
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