When parents divorce, it inevitably has a dramatic impact on the lives of both parents and their children. In addition to determining physical and legal custody, ex-spouses may face many future questions about how to raise children as supportive co-parents.
To help separating spouses anticipate and diffuse potential conflicts, New Jersey requires divorcing partners to create a parenting plan that describes the future responsibilities and rights of each parent.
What is a parenting plan?
A parenting plan is a legal agreement between spouses that provides details about custody, visitation, financial support and other childcare issues.
When parents settle a divorce outside of court, they may draft a parenting plan together. If a judge approves the plan, the plan becomes a final custody order.
If the divorce is contentious, each parent may need to submit a separate proposed plan and the court will determine the final custody order.
What does a parenting plan include?
At minimum, a parenting plan should determine whether ex-spouses will share physical and legal custody and the amount of child support provided.
Other items that a plan may cover include the child’s daily schedule, specifics about which days, holidays and summer vacations a child will spend with each parent, and whether both or only one parent will have access to medical and school records.
What other issues should parents consider?
Successfully co-parenting children with an ex-spouse often goes far beyond settling custody issues. An effective parenting plan may be able to prevent future conflicts from escalating by diffusing disagreements before they happen.
In addition to decisions about schooling, religious education and extracurricular activities, parents may want to resolve issues of discipline, screen time, chore responsibilities, driving and other day-to-day choices involved in helping children to grow and thrive.