Parenting plans are a legal contract between the parents of child outlining custodial and parenting time terms. The most common provision in every parenting plan is the schedule, but there are other overlooked provisions that must also be included in order to properly reflect the agreement of both parties. Below are the provisions that are among the things often overlooked in divorce agreementand they must be included in your parenting plan.
- Health Care Provisions
It is important to include health care provisions in your parenting plan. You will want to decide who makes medical decisions such as what doctor, if there are allergies or other conditions and when a child can be taken out of state for treatment without the consent of the other parent. A good parenting plan document should allow either parent to make decisions in case of an emergency or emergency contact information.
- Relief for Childcare Provisions
Providing childcare provisions relieves one parent from the responsibility of providing child care on a regular basis. The other parent might agree to provide more time with the children if they are relieved from having to provide childcare. In most parenting plans, one parent is the primary parent who enjoys more time with children than the other, but you may want to include a change in circumstances provision that allows each parent to spend equal amount of time with the child.
- Education Provisions
In every state, parents have joint authority over their children’s education. The courts do not interfere unless there is a showing of educational neglect. In some states, the shared authority is called “constructive trust.” Even though parents have an equal voice in education, it is still important to include provisions where you can agree on what extra-curricular activities your children will participate in, including who will pay for those activities and how transportation to such events will be provided.
Also, if there is an issue of a child’s failing grades, one parent may want to have the authority to determine what educational option the child should attend while the other parent will dictate where the child should go to school. It is important that you include a provision on how your decisions will be reached and who determines whether or not special education services are necessary.
- Child Discipline Provisions
It is important to write a parenting plan that allows both parents the authority to discipline the children. If one parent has primary physical custody and authority over the child, it may be in their best interest if you include “rebuttable presumption” clause where the other parent must show why they should have the authority to discipline the child.
This is of utmost importance if one parent has primary physical custody and you do not want them to be able to harm your relationship with your children by abusing their authority or using child discipline as a means of retaliation. If there are provisions in your parenting plan that state who can discipline the children, it should also include the method of discipline allowed. The most effective clause to include in your parenting plan is a “pecking order” providing that the parent with primary physical custody has the first disciplinary option, and if they are unable to resolve it, they must consult with the other parent who then has the ability to also discipline the child.
- Domestic Violence Provisions
If there is any history of domestic violence in your relationship, it should be addressed in your parenting plan. The courts will not allow a parent with a history of domestic violence to have sole custody of the children or even unsupervised contact until they are able to show that their past conduct has been forgiven and that they can maintain a safe environment for their children.
For the courts to have any confidence in granting sole physical custody of your kids to a parent with a history of domestic violence, you must show that there has been rehabilitation, the past conduct is not likely to be repeated and that you can safely live together as co-parents even if you are divorced or separated.
You should include a provision that states how you will notify the other parent if your child has a statement about witnessing domestic violence or any other harmful conduct, and include an order of protection as part #1 regarding abuse.
- Order of Protection Provisions
If one of the parents represents a significant risk to their children, then it may be in the best interest of the children if you include an order of protection that is valid in every state and that has automatic restraining provisions. Order of Protection constitutes a way to protect your children. It allows you to act on their behalf even when they are adults.
If one parent is not complying with child support orders, there should be a provision to apply for an order of protection to have the other parent arrested. If there is a history of domestic violence or child abuse, then it may be advisable for you to include an order of protection in your parenting plan.
- Child Support Enforcement Provisions
One provision that should be in every parenting plan is language regarding how child support will be enforced after divorce. You will want to include a provision that states that you can change the order if it is found to be unjust and inequitable, and one that provides for an automatic adjustment of child support upon your significant income changes.
Another clause should provide for retroactive child support once the divorce is final so that you do not wait until your ex- spouse falls behind in child support payments. Child support is based on income and if you do not have a retroactive child support clause, it could cause you to be responsible for any arrearage owed by your ex-spouse that occurred prior to the divorce.
- Custody Modification Provisions
It is imperative that you include language in your parenting plan that allows for a custody modification if your situation changes. You should require notice of a change in circumstances, and include a provision that requires the parent seeking the request to show cause why an order modifying custody would be appropriate. If you can establish good reason to modify custody, then the court will have to consider changing it.
- Provision for Extended Relatives
There are very few states that allow a grandparent to get custody of their grandchildren without providing compelling proof that the child is at risk in the existing environment. In order to prevent being seen as creating a situation where you want your relative to have custody, it is important that you include language in your parenting plan stating that the best interests of the child are always paramount.
It should also state that you are not attempting to remove your child from his or her existing environment by naming your relative as a potential custodian, and if the court determines that this is not in their best interest, then they will retain their existing living situation.
- Foster Care Provisions
If you have a relative that is providing the best possible environment for your children, it is important that you include them as a potential placement in both temporary and permanent custody orders. It is important to make sure you cover all of the bases in your parenting plan so that if everything seems fine today, there will be no question about where your child will be placed if the unthinkable should happen.
- Proxy Parent Provisions
It is very common for one parent to become incapacitated and unable to care for their children. You should consider what will happen in this situation, and include a provision that allows you to appoint another person to make major decisions on your behalf. If you fail to include this in your parenting plan, then you will not be able to appoint a proxy parent.
Parenting plan is a critical document for every family, but many people overlook the importance of this legal contract. When you have children with someone else and split up, it’s important to create an agreement that specifies how much time each parent will spend with them. You should also include provisions about who will be responsible for certain aspects of their lives like medical care or education. We hope these 11 overlooked provisions were helpful! What did we miss? Let us know by commenting below if there’s anything specific that you want more information.