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Brian Don Levy, Attorney at Law

PARENTING PLANS INTRODUCTION

There are as many parenting plans as there are parents. It is a very family oriented issue and each family is different. Basically, divorcing couples have three options as to how to arrive at a parenting plan for their children. The best way is for both parents to meet and confer, and arrive at a mutual agreement that allows their children to have time with both parents, and gives both parents some flexibility from time to time.

While it is always better for parents to make these decisions for themselves and for their children, it does not always happen that way. More often than not, parents who have little to no desire to communicate with each other or are too angry with each other to communicate directly have their lawyers litigate the issue. The end result being that a judge makes the parenting decisions for the parents. Usually both parents wind up somewhat unhappy with the result they receive.

Another option is for both parents to jointly hire a psychologist, to act as an advocate for the children. This process is much less adversarial than litigation, and is usually accomplished within two to four sessions. This is a very effective method and is far less combative and less expensive than litigation.

While each parenting plan is unique, sometimes a starting point is helpful to separated parents. With that in mind, the following is a sample visitation schedule that should be viewed as a starting point in your discussions with the other parent.

SAMPLE VISITATION ORDER

1. The non-custodial parent (petitioner) (respondent) (mother) (father) shall have visitation with the minor child(ren) on alternating weekends from 6:00 p.m. on Friday to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, commencing Friday, ______________________, 19____. In the event that visitation falls on a three-day weekend (legal holiday), the non-custodial parent shall have the child(ren) from 6:00 p.m. on the last normal working day (Thursday or Friday) to 6:00 p.m. on the last day of the three-day weekend (Sunday or Monday). All recognized holidays which do not fall on a Monday or Friday shall be alternated between the parents, with the non-custodial parent having visitation on the first such holiday following this order.

This alternating weekend schedule shall provide the basic framework for regular visitation, but shall be subordinate to prescribed variations on specific occasions, as set forth in the following paragraphs. In other words, the parties may presently mark their calendars to identify visitation weekends well into the future, but must anticipate that some changes will occur. For instance, visitation weekends may be pre-emoted by such events as the custodial parent's birthday or his/her share of the Christmas holiday. Similarly, those weekends allocated to the custodial parent will be subordinate to such events as the non-custodial parent's birthday, etc. Nonetheless, the underlying schedule of alternating weekends, once established, shall remain unchanged throughout the years.

2. The child(ren) shall be with the father each year on both his birthday and on Father's Day, at least for such period of time as will not interfere with school hours or reasonable bedtime. The same shall apply as to the mother on her birthday and on Mother's Day.

3. Birthdays of the child(ren) shall be alternated between the parents, with the custodial parent having the child(ren) on the first such birthday following this order. Birthday visitation with the non-custodial parent shall be for such period of time as will not interfere with school hours or reasonable bedtime.

4. The non-custodial parent may have visitation over one-half of the Christmas school holiday each year. On even-numbered years, the child(ren) shall be with the non-custodial parent during the first half of the holiday, and with the custodial parent during the second half. The transfer shall occur at noon on Christmas Day. The reverse sequence shall be observed on odd-numbered years, with the custodial parent having the child(ren) during the first half of the holiday.

A similar arrangement shall apply with respect to the Easter school holiday (or "Spring Break"). As with Christmas, the child(ren) shall be with the non-custodial parent during the first half of the holiday on even-numbered years, and vice versa on odd-numbered years. The transfer shall take place at noon on the middle day of the holiday (or on the last day of the first half if the total number of available days is even).

5. Thanksgiving holidays shall be alternated between the parents, with the non-custodial parent having the child(ren) on odd-numbered years, and the custodial parent on even-numbered years. Visitation on odd-numbering years shall commence at 6:00 p.m. on the evening (Wednesday) preceding Thanksgiving Day, and shall continue until 6:00 p.m. on Sunday evening. On even-numbered years, the child(ren) shall remain with the custodial parent throughout the entire four-day period, even though the weekend would otherwise have been scheduled for visitation with the non-custodial parent.

In the event that the day (Friday) following Thanksgiving is not declared a school holiday, suitable arrangements must be made to either insure proper school attendance, or to have attendance excused. This shall be the responsibility of the parent who has the child(ren) for Thanksgiving that year.

6. Each parent may select a period of thirty consecutive days during which to have the child(ren) over the summer vacation. Neither should select a period which includes either the other parent's birthday, or the birthday of any child which is reserved to the other parent. Each must advise the other of his/her selection in writing, by no later than the end of April each year. In the event of a conflict, the custodial parent's choice shall have priority on even-numbered years, and the non-custodial parent's choice shall have priority on odd-numbered years. The purpose of these designated periods is to permit each parent to spend vacation time with the child(ren), and to facilitate the making of suitable arrangements for travel and activities. During the balance of the summer vacation, the child(ren) shall remain with the custodial parent, subject to regular weekend visitations, birthday visitation, etc.

7. During any visitation, the non-custodial parent will be expected to spend as much time as possible with the child(ren). The child(ren) should not be left in the custody of other persons except with good reason, and in no event may the child(ren) be left in other than a wholesome, home-type environment.

8. Each parent, and particularly the custodial parent, shall carefully avoid the scheduling or arranging of activities for the child(ren) which are likely to conflict with any visitation or period of custody allocated to the other parent.

9. (Optional: No less than two days prior to each visitation, the non-custodial parent must contact the custodial parent to confirm that the visitation will take place as scheduled. If such confirmation is not timely communicated, the custodial parent may assume that there will be no visitation and may arrange his/her schedule accordingly.)

10. In the event that the non-custodial parent is unable to exercise visitation on a given occasion, he/she must so notify the custodial parent at the earliest possible opportunity. If the non-custodial parent fails to arrive at the appointed time to commence visitation, the custodial parent need only wait for one hour before considering the visitation to have been cancelled. Should the non-custodial parent fail to arrive for visitation on two consecutive occasions, or on any two occasions within a period of 90 days, without having given reasonable prior notice to the custodial parent, all visitation shall thereafter abate until such time as either (1) the Court orders that visitations be restored, or (2) the custodial parent receives written notification from the non-custodial parent, sent by registered mail, return-receipt requested, advising that the non-custodial parent wishes to resume visitations as of a specified date (but not less than two weeks after such notification is sent) and that he/she agrees to exercise reasonable diligence in attending future visitations.

11. Limited to emergency situations, each parent shall be authorized to take any and all actions necessary to protect the health and welfare of the child(ren).

12. Each parent shall keep the other advised at all times of his/her current residence address, telephone numbers ( home and work), the child(ren)'s school, and the location of any place where the child(ren) will be spending any extended period of time (four days or more). Neither parent shall use such information for the purpose of harassing or annoying the other in any way , and each shall be specifically restrained and enjoined from disturbing the other's peace or invading the other's privacy by any means whatsoever.

13. Both parents will be expected to cooperate fully, not only in carrying out the express written terms of this Visitation Order, but in living up to the underlying spirit of the Order as well. For the sake of the minor child(ren), whose interests and welfare should always be placed ahead of everything else, each parent must make a special effort to set aside his/her personal feelings toward the other, and to maintain an attitude of tolerance, flexibility and good faith, particularly when it comes to visitation, even if it is felt that the other parent is being less than reasonable or considerate.

Each parent must also learn to accept that the child(ren)'s love and affection will always be shared between the mother and father, and that frequent and continuing contact with both parents is naturally in the child(ren)'s best interest. Accordingly, neither parent shall ever say anything of a derogatory nature about the other, particularly in the immediate presence of the child(ren), and neither shall say or do anything which may tend to discourage the child(ren) from spending time with the other parent.

For more information contact Lawyer@CalAttorney.com.

 

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