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Good Parenting PlanLike delicate snowflakes, every person (and family) is different, which is exactly why there is no one-size-fits-all parenting plan. Although the term “parenting plan” sounds like divorcing parents are given a set of parenting tips and instructions, that’s not the case. In the most basic explanation, a parenting plan outlines how the children will be cared for after the divorce.

As with any legal process, there are some basic things to learn first.

Defining Custody Terms

There are a few types of custody to be aware of when creating a parenting plan: legal and physical.

Legal Custody is the right to make decisions for the child. When a child is born, the parents are legally responsible for making decisions on the child’s behalf until the child is of age to make decisions themselves. However, if the parents divorce, then the decision-making responsibility must be divided somehow and recorded. The parent who is awarded legal custody will have the authority to decide which medical procedures the child should have, which school they go to, and more.

Physical Custody describes where the child will live, and who the child will live with. However, physical custody essentially includes basic care of and raising the child. The parent awarded with physical custody must provide shelter for the child as well as feed, clothe, bathe, and educate the child (or if the child is of sufficient age, must oversee those things).

These types of custody can be arranged in two different ways: sole or joint.

Sole Custody is awarded to only one parent. If one parent is awarded sole legal custody, that parent is the only one who can make major decisions concerning the child. If one parent is awarded sole physical custody, then only that parent houses and cares for the child, and the other parent may have visitation.

Joint Custody is divided and awarded to both parents. If joint legal custody is awarded, then the parents must outline how decisions will be made regarding the child (for example: does one parent’s opinion count more, or do they both count equally?). If joint physical custody is awarded, then the parents must create a schedule to outline which days and times the child will spend with each parent.

One Size Does Not Fit All

When it comes to children in the divorce process, the courts agree that the only deciding factor is the child’s well being. Of course, as parents you want what is best for your child, but during such an emotional process as divorce, it can be easy to lose sight of the real goal: The child. But what most divorcees forget is that their baby is constantly growing and changing; so a parenting plan that works well when the child is 4 probably won’t work as well when the child is 13.

But alas, the inner-workings of the mini-human mind is too strange and complicated a thing to explain right now. Visit us on the 9th for the scoop on what parenting plans works best for each major developmental stage, and how to go about updating your parenting plan.

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