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4 tips for making a practical parenting plan

If you have children, sometime during your divorce, you'll be faced with the task of developing a custody and visitation agreement -- which is also known as a parenting plan.

This document is what will end up controlling who sees the kids how often, when, where and what length of time. It also allocates decision-making abilities -- determining what rights each parent has to decide issues surrounding a child's schooling, medical care or basic well-being without first getting the other parent's consent.

How do you make a good parenting plan? Consider these tips:

-- First, face facts: You are probably not going to be entirely satisfied with any plan. If you're like most parents, you'd prefer your children to be with you when they're not at school. You'd probably also prefer to have the ability to give your input on every important issue that could affect your child -- but that's not always practical when you aren't all living together.

-- Consider giving the authority over decision making in certain areas to the parent who always handled things before your divorce. Realistically, most parents don't split parenting duties right down the middle. If one parent typically handled education-related issues and the other parent handled medical issues before your split, consider leaving those decision-making tasks intact. You can add a clause that includes you if there are to be any major changes -- like a move to a new school, skipping ahead a grade or deciding not to vaccinate.

-- Be realistic about how much physical time you have to spend with your children instead of trying for a parenting plan that gives you exactly half their time. How much do you work? What extracurricular activities does your child have that could get in the way? Divide up the parenting time so that it makes sense and is less stressful for everyone, including your child.

-- Make use of telephones, text, social media apps, email and video conferencing. That can help "even out" the parenting time if your child's other parent is likely to have primary physical custody. There's nothing wrong with reading your child a bedtime story by Skype!

For more information or guidance, reach out to an attorney who can help you work through the intricacies of a successful parenting plan.

Source: California Courts, "Parenting Plans," accessed April 21, 2017

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