In part one of this blog post, we gave two major components for inclusion in a parenting plan. We talked about child custody and parenting time schedules and different aspects of each.
As we mentioned before, some things may not be anticipated in advance, such as when work schedules change. This can drastically change the availability of one parent to pick up a child at the agreed upon time or may even require a new parenting time schedule and/or child care facility with different hours. If the parents do not live close together, they may argue over the location of the new child care facility or the need for a new exchange location. Not including language as to the agreed upon child care facility or exchange location, for example, can create a major conflict that cannot be resolved until a court date can be obtained.
However, if it is included in the court order, that will have to be adhered to until there’s a new court order. Sometimes people are not on the same page. For example, one parent may think that Thanksgiving includes a four day weekend and the other may think it is only a short holiday on Thursday from 12 pm to 5 p.m.
Having this spelled out in a parenting plan in advance is a good way to make sure the parents are on the same page from the beginning and can prevent last minute arguments just before a holiday. It is best to communicate and discuss any anticipated changes in advance of the need arising. In the event agreements are not reached, a motion may need to be filed and if contested, it can take some time before a new order is entered.
It is not possible to predict all future parenting time changes that may be needed. However, it is important when preparing a parenting plan to make sure it provides for as many potential circumstances as possible.
For example, parents may believe that they will agree in advance upon the holiday dates and times. However, suppose relatives will be visiting both parties during winter break in a given year. Airline tickets are purchased by each family’s relatives, however the times for the relatives’ visits to each home are overlapping. It is important to know in advance what the schedule is so that family visits can be timed to occur within the set parenting time arrangement.
Having everything spelled out in the parenting plan does not mean the parties cannot be flexible. However, if the parties do not agree, then the parenting plan will be in place to prevent arguments. If the other parent requests a deviation from the parenting plan, it will be possible to politely state that there can be no change to the agreement this year as plans have already been made based upon the court ordered parenting time schedule and they cannot be rearranged. Violation of a court ordered parenting plan is a serious matter and most reasonable people will not risk it.
One parent may likely want to accommodate the other parent’s special requests as a matter of courtesy, if for no other reason than they will likely need an accommodation in the future and the other party is more likely to agree if their own requests have been accommodated in the past. In the event new arrangements are needed on a permanent basis, however, a new parenting plan should be prepared and filed with the court, requesting the court approve the new parenting plan as a court order. Otherwise, the previous outdated order will remain in effect.
There have been many instances where parties did not follow a parenting plan for some time because they agreed to a new arrangement, then one party decides the court ordered plan is best, and begins enforcing the court order, after many months of not doing so.
In summary, a parenting plan that leaves any arrangements open-ended may create a situation where the parties will have to go back to court for new orders or may require additional court orders to clarify just what happens in a given situation. Wouldn’t it be better to think about these possibilities ahead of time and provide for them? Of course, not every future event can be anticipated. Over time, nearly all parenting plans will need to be modified, sometimes on numerous occasions. Hopefully agreements will be reached when circumstances require it, however if not, a modification request may be heard by the court.