Going through a divorce involving minor children is difficult, and one of the major steps the court will ask both parents to complete is the establishment of a parenting plan. That is because the plan outlines all the necessary boundaries and agreements between the divorcing spouses, including those the court orders and voluntary agreements the parents seek out to make the management of the co-parenting experience easier for both of them.
Understanding Pennsylvania's parenting plan law
Unlike some states, Pennsylvania often asks both parents to submit parenting plans when custody is being contested. These plans are then weighed by the court before a determination is made as to how custody will be divided or who it will be awarded to. The law creates several requirements for parenting plans, and it asks each parent to not only set the agenda when completing their own plan, but to indicate specific areas where they would give responsibility to the other parent or seek to make decisions together.
Building a successful parenting plan
Seeking to work within the law to build a successful parenting plan that will be acceptable for the court involves researching what to include. Here is a short list of the elements, and it can be useful to work with a template:
- The schedule for personal care and controlled time with each parent
- The health care of the child
- Religious and educational involvement
- Childcare arrangements
- Transportation arrangements
- A plan for addressing disputes and changes
The court might ask for more individual matters on specific plans, so parents should pay attention to any additional instructions in the materials.
How do courts decide on custody?
The court weighs a few factors when it makes a decision about how to divide custody between parents. First and foremost, it assumes that ongoing contact with both parents is in the child's interests unless there is strong evidence to the contrary. The judge overseeing the divorce will also weigh whether or not each parent seems fully prepared for child-rearing after separation, and can also take into account other factors like conviction histories and whether or not a parent is likely to allow access to the other parent or to grandparents.
If you are facing a divorce
Child custody arrangements are just part of the complexity that is divorce in today's America. A parent who is starting the process needs the help of an experienced divorce attorney to make sure his or her interests are protected, especially when it comes to childcare issues.