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How to create a joint parenting plan in California

Most California divorce professionals, from judges to lawyers to social workers, believe that children fare better in a divorce if the parents can cooperate in resolving issues such as custody, child support, decision making and visitation. The straightest path to such an outcome is the preparation of a parenting plan that is signed by both parties and approved by the court.

Drafting a successful parenting plan requires both parents to put aside feelings of anger and resentment and focus on the needs of the children. A parenting plan should take into consideration a child's need for love, protection and guidance, a healthy diet, proper medical care and sufficient rest. A plan should be specific and detailed to prevent one or both spouses from creating conflict by arguing about its meaning.

Parenting plans come in as many varieties as parents and children. No two plans will be exactly alike. Nevertheless, experts about such plans have crafted guidelines that every plan should follow. The plan should provide instruction about physical custody, choice of schools and religion and health care providers. A plan should provide that both parents can have access to information about the child, especially medical and educational information, both parents can contact the child and each parent should have reliable contact information about the other parent. The ages of the children may affect the visitation schedule and vacations. Children with special needs should have those needs spelled out in the plan.

The actual drafting of a parenting plan can be a complex task. Contacting a knowledgeable family lawyer for assistance can help ensure that the final plan will satisfy state laws and reflect the wishes of the parties. Once a parenting plan is signed by both parties and by the judge, it becomes an official court order and should be regarded as such.

Source: California Judicial Branch, "Parenting Plans," accessed on Nov. 21, 2017

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