Family Law Lawyer
If you and your child’s other parent are transitioning from a romantic relationship to a co-parenting relationship, you are likely feeling overwhelmed by all the change that such a transition entails. Thankfully, there is a document that you can use to set legally-enforceable expectations for your co-parenting situation. This document is generally required by most family law courts across the country when those courts are finalizing child custody orders involving parents who will share parenting responsibilities to some degree, moving forward. This document is usually referred to as a parenting agreement or parenting plan.
Agreeing to Terms vs. “Battling” Terms
As an experienced Gig Harbor, WA family law lawyer – including those who practice at Robinson & Hadeed – can confirm, not every set of co-parents is in a position to reach an agreement concerning the terms of their parenting plan. Some co-parents find that they need a judge to settle their fundamental differences. In such cases, family law judges are required to resolve differences by honoring the “best interests of the child” standard. Essentially, they’ll make a ruling on contested parenting plan terms in accordance with what they believe to be in the affected child(ren)’s best interests.
If you and your co-parent are in a position to reach an agreement about your parenting plan terms – perhaps with the assistance of your attorney and/or a mediator – it is important to keep this standard in mind as you’re drafting your agreement. In doing so, you’ll remain focused on what arrangement best reflects your child’s unique needs and you’ll be poised to have a successful position ready to present to a judge in the event that you and your co-parent find yourself fundamentally disagreeing on a specific matter.
Expectations vs. Flexibility
When attempting to draft a parenting agreement, you’ll want to strike a solid balance between setting expectations by which everyone can plan and the kind of flexibility that life requires. For example, say that you’re discussing who will be responsible for transporting your child home from school on a daily basis. Instead of saying, “Mom will pick child up at 3pm daily and transport her home,” you may want to say, “Mom will be responsible for arranging child’s transportation home from school.” This adjustment makes the expectation that Mom will see to child’s school-to-home transportation clear but allows for flexibility as it pertains to timing and how the child arrives home. Meaning, if school lets out at noon one day and Mom gives Aunt Bianca permission to pick child up from school, that’s allowed under the terms of the agreement but there remains no doubt that arranging such transportation is Mom’s job.
Your parenting plan may address such issues as schooling, medical care, extracurricular involvement, religious services, and even basic “upkeep” matters, such as “Is child allowed to chop off two feet of their hair without getting permission from both parents?”. No matter what issues you tackle in your plan, keep this flexibility/expectation balance in mind to keep your plan workable for all.