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What is a parenting plan?

When a child custody case is contested, a Pennsylvania court may require the parents to submit a parenting plan. This agreement is the result of negotiations between the parents, whether through informal means, collaborative law or mediation, with the aim to resolve all of the custody issues that are contested.

A parenting plan typically includes decisions about which parent a child will reside with whether one or both parents will make major life decisions regarding the child and when the child spends time with each parent, including vacation times and holidays. How the parents will handle the child's contact with grandparents, friends of the family and others outside of the family may also be included. Additionally, a parenting plan could lay out religion, education, transportation, child care and health care arrangements for the child.

Just because the parents develop a parenting plan does not mean that disputes or changes may not arise in the future. This is why some plans lay out a procedure for how these matters will be resolved. The court may also specify other child custody matters that the parents must include in the plan.

After the parents agree to a parenting plan, it is submitted to the court for review. The court may hold an informal hearing to ask the parents a number of questions, such as whether they each voluntarily signed and understand the agreement. If the court is content that the parenting plan was negotiated fairly and upheld the best interests of the child, it is approved. Otherwise, the court orders changes to the plan before it is finalized.

Not all parenting plans are the same because the resolution of child custody issues depends on the specific circumstances of the family. There are countless ways for parents to customize their agreement. Family law attorneys could help the parents determine all of the custody issues that need to be resolved.

Source: Findlaw, "How to Get Custody", December 30, 2014

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