The right time to start writing up your ideas for a co-parenting plan is when you are anticipating the divorce not after it has already been filed. The next step is to have your attorney look over the ideas and give some feedback. Talk with your attorney about how to communicate certain points to your former partner. Some things, such as decision-making about after school care, may upset them.
Create a game plan with your attorney about when you will need them to be present for discussions and when you can talk with the other parent alone. Later, before you even consider signing a completed co-parenting plan, make sure your attorney reviews and OKs the plan first.
Your co-parenting plan should cover physical custody, which is where the children will reside and spend the majority of their time. Other aspects of the plan relate to where the children will spend holidays and summer vacations. The plan should also cover legal custody, which is who makes significant decisions about the children, and if it is joint legal custody (which it is in most cases) then you can include who has final say in certain areas to try to ensure against any future confusion. Some areas of the parenting plan you would want to address about who has the final say may relate to education, religion, day care, and emergency care.
A co-parenting plan should consider some of the children’s dreams for their future as well. For example, say you have a child who plays a musical instrument that you and your former partner are financing. Your co-parenting plan should look ahead to financial responsibilities like band trips or music lessons. It should also look back, possibly addressing whose homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy will cover the potential loss of the instrument.
There are specific steps you need to take if your former partner engages in physical or emotional abuse of you or your children. When such conditions are present, you do not have to divide all responsibilities equally. Your former partner needs to develop control and improve how they treat others before getting more parenting responsibilities. Talk to your attorney about what your former abusive partner needs to change such as drinking or drug abuse, anger issues, or other such problems requiring attention. Your attorney will share options the court could mandate for your former partner, such as rehabilitation or anger management classes.
A co-parenting plan should focus on the two partners who had children together. It should not assign responsibilities to outside romantic partners, such as a former partner’s current girlfriend or boyfriend. A co-parenting plan can consider the interests of the children’s grandparents, as well as the care the grandparents wish to offer. Yet the best interests of the children always come first and parties outside of the two parents are not necessities in most cases.
When crafting a plan with your Birmingham divorce lawyer, always keep the phrase the best interests of the child in mind. This is the standard that Alabama, and most other State Courts, will use to determine whether your co-parenting plan is sufficient. You should also be aware that certain issues, such as where a child will sleep, are easy to solve.
Other issues, such as how the parties will split the burden of medical care for a child with a disability, are more complex. If one or more children need special assistance, consider talking to an expert like a disability attorney. That person will know what your child may need in one year, five years, and ten years. They can help you and your former partner write a co-parenting plan that addresses such special needs of your family into the future.