What Courts Consider in Approving Parenting Plans

In so many divorces, parents staunchly defend their custody rights, often without knowing (or appreciating) the differences between legal and physical custody. Some legal battles stem from emotional arguments where one parent declares that he or she wants "full custody" as a way to enforce their personal parenting style. Others emanate from advice from family and friends who insist that custody is necessary to maintain a relationship with the child.

Because of the over-emphasis of custody labels, parents often lose track of what is really important in maintaining a parent-child relationship: the parenting plan. This article will highlight the courts consider in approving such plans.

Essentially, parenting plans are written agreements that detail when (and where) the child will spend time with a parent, how parents will handle parenting duties, how (and when) the child will communicate with a parent, and how the parties may resolve disputes. They specify which parent will have the child on a daily (or weekly) basis and for particular holidays (for example, Memorial Day with mom, Fourth of July with dad).

Parenting plans also set forth rules on exchanges (including the time and location) as well as transportation duties. Parenting plans are also important in detailing who has decision-making authority on extra-curricular activities, discipline, religious upbringing and many other aspects of parenting. The plan may be open-ended and leave room for the parties to resolve their differences with the help of a parenting time expeditor, or it can be very specific as to each detail of the child's life.

Georgia law requires every divorce and custody order to include a parenting plan. Courts require them to be child-focused, and flexible enough to accommodate the child's changing needs as he or she grows and matures. Most importantly, the plan must recognize the importance of both parents continuing a close relationship with the child. After working through the details of a parenting plan, some parents feel that the traditional custody labels are far less important compared to the powers and duties they succeed to through the plan.

If you have questions about parenting plans, an experienced attorney can help.