Parents who decide to end their marriage and get a divorce will need to make decisions about a variety of issues related to child custody. In many cases, parents may be able to agree on how to handle these issues either by negotiating a settlement or participating in mediation. If an agreement cannot be reached, litigation may be necessary, and the final decisions will be made by the judge in their case. Matters related to child custody will be addressed in a document called a parenting plan that will be incorporated into the couple’s final divorce decree.
Terms of a Parenting Plan
The two main components of child custody that will be addressed in a parenting plan are the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. Parental responsibilities, which are commonly known as legal custody, refer to the parents’ rights to make decisions for their children. A parenting plan will describe whether parents will share some or all of the areas of responsibility equally or whether one parent will have primary or sole responsibility in certain areas. The types of responsibility that will be addressed include decisions related to children’s healthcare and medical treatment, educational matters, choice of religion, and children’s participation in religious services and training, and extracurricular activities.
Parenting time, commonly known as physical custody, refers to when children will be spending time with each parent and staying in each parent’s home. A parenting plan will specify a schedule for regular, daily parenting time, detailing the days and times when children will be in the care of each parent. Parenting time schedules will also need to be created for days that fall outside of the regular schedule, such as summer vacations, spring break, school breaks during the winter holidays, other major holidays, and special days such as children’s or parents’ birthdays, providing a full understanding of which parent will care for children on these days.