A parenting plan is a written document prepared by your lawyer, which spells out the rights and responsibility of each parent in the raising of the children after the divorce has ended.
Whether you are involved in a contested custody dispute or you and your spouse wish to reach an agreement on the raising of your children after the end of the marriage, you will need to decide on a parenting plan. In Ohio there are many forms of custody, including shared parenting, sole custody, etc. However, each of these forms of custody involves a parenting plan.
Often parents disagree over the name of the custodial relationship without ever having truly considered the nature of the parenting plan. Prior to concerning yourself with what to call it, focus first on what “it” will be. No matter what form of custody you end up choosing all must have a parenting plan and all parenting plans involve three main elements, which must be decided either by the parents or the courts.
The three primary elements of all parenting plans in Ohio are as follows:
Regardless of what type of custody, regardless of what sort of visitation, the fact is that kids need to live somewhere. They need a base, a room, and a place that they call home. While many types of parenting plans involve significant time with each parent all the parenting plans must designate a primary residence for the children, if only to determine where the children go to school. Once it is determined what the children’s primary residence will be certain natural designations follow; Once we know where the kids will be living, we know where they will be going to school, we know who will be primarily responsible for their day-to-day needs, etc.
Whether parents have shared parenting or sole custody, the parenting plans for each must designate a residential parent. The decision where the children should be primarily based should be made exclusively with the best interests of the children in mind. Ask yourselves where will the kids be happiest? Where are they most comfortable? What is the location that will best attend to their day-to-day needs to keep them well cared for and happy, especially during this difficult transitional time? The separation of parents itself is hard, ask, “How can we make this transition as small a change in their lives as possible?”
In Ohio what used to be called “visitation” is now called “parenting time.” Once it is determined where the children will be primarily based then it must be determined when the non-residential parent is able to have parenting time with the kids. Most courts have what is referred to as a “standard order of parenting time.” Typically this involves alternating weekends, and one to two evenings during the week for the non-residential parent. These plans should be used only as a guideline. The fact is the work schedules of the parents and the individual needs of the children must be taken into consideration before simply agreeing to a standard parenting time order. For example if one parent works a day during the weekend it would serve no purpose to transport the children to a daycare or childcare while that parent is at work if the other parent is available.
Alternatively, parenting plans should provide consistency and structure for the children giving them the opportunity to rely upon where they will be and when. In most cases with the possible exception of older teenage children, constant back and forth between parents even in a shared parenting plan can detrimentally affect kids needs for structure in their lives.
Parents need to understand fifty-fifty or equal time is almost impossible to achieve. As in all decisions with the children, place the children’s needs and what would be best for them before the parent’s needs. When done properly parenting time orders can give full and complete access to the children to both parents in an appropriate and structured manner for the children.
Perhaps the largest myth in custody disputes is that the child support order somehow depends on the title of the parenting plan. Many people feel that if they have shared parenting they will pay less or receive less child support then they would if they received sole custody. This assumption is patently false. Absent an agreement of the parties as to what child support amounts should be the State of Ohio mandates guidelines based upon parents’ incomes. Those guidelines do not take into consideration the name of the parenting plan whatsoever.
In certain instances, child support payments may be modified based upon additional time spent with the non-residential parent and/or the division of expenses for the children. The purpose of child support is for children to benefit from the economic position of both parents. An experienced attorney can do a child support calculation giving you a good idea of what the law will require for support and talk to you about the legal permissible modifications that might be available.
Rather than disputing whether you have sole custody or joint custody, talk first about the details of the plan you will have, reach an agreement about those details and then if you have further questions contact an attorney to discuss the differences between various forms of custody. By doing this you will save yourself time and energy and be well on the way to achieving an agreement about the parenting of the children after the divorce rather than having a lengthy or costly custody dispute.
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