The parenting plan plays a critical role in any child custody arrangement, setting forth the terms for how parents conduct themselves. Drafting a comprehensive, thorough parenting plan can help make co-parenting easier for you and your soon-to-be-ex, allowing you to focus on your children's best interests.
Today, we're giving you some tips and tricks on how to write a parenting plan that enables your child to succeed post-divorce.
How Parenting Plans Work in New Jersey
Your parenting plan dictates the terms of your child custody arrangement. If you and your partner can compromise on a parenting plan, you can present a joint parenting plan to the court. Otherwise, each of you has to draft your own parenting plan, which the court will then combine to create a final parenting plan in the best interests of the child.
Because parents have less input on a court-ordered parenting plan, most find that they're more satisfied when negotiating a mutually beneficial compromise with their partner. If you can, try and put aside differences you have with your spouse to create a parenting plan that serves your child's best interests instead of leaving it up to the court.
Parenting Plan Must-Haves
In New Jersey, every parenting plan has to cover the following areas at a minimum:
- A timeshare plan designating how much time the child spends with each parent, when the parents exchange custody, how the parents will handle holidays, etc.
- A custody plan determining the child's primary place of residence. In a joint custody arrangement, parents sometimes switch off as the custodial parent every year, so each parent gets head of household-exclusive tax breaks every other year.
- A statement concerning how the parents will handle legal custody, which governs items such as education, religion, physical and mental medical care, etc.
- A statement concerning how the parents will modify the plan in the future, if necessary.
- A statement concerning how the parents will discipline the child and resolve disputes with one another.
In addition to the above mandatory parts of a New Jersey parenting plan, you should consider including the following clauses in your parenting plan:
- An anti-disparagement clause. Preventing the parents from disparaging one another in front of their child helps avoid the "good cop, bad cop" parenting dynamic that shows up in so many co-parenting relationships.
- A social and general media clause. The internet plays a bigger role than ever in children's lives. Both parents should agree on boundaries regarding how their child spends time on social media and what kinds of media they consume.
- A clause itemizing costs. Splitting costs for things like health insurance can quickly get complicated if one parent can't pay their half of the bill. Itemizing costs gives parents fewer things to keep track of and helps them budget better.
- A clause for what happens if one of you is sick or can't take care of your child. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how many parents view co-parenting. You should have a plan in place for what you'll do if one parent is too sick to take care of the children, or is at risk of exposing them to an illness.
With a little time and effort, you can draft a comprehensive parenting plan that meets all your needs.
At Lane & Lane, LLC, we work with parents to navigate the child custody process with confidence.
To learn more about our firm or schedule a consultation with our team, contact us online or via phone at (908) 259-6673.