How do parenting plans work?

Parenting plans in Missouri are designed to allow parents themselves to determine the most suitable parent-child relationships following divorce.

There are many reasons why couples ultimately choose to divorce. One may be an inability to make important decisions together. For this reason, the divorce process can be especially challenging. During this stage, the divorcing couple may need to collaborate on important decisions regarding their children's future.

As difficult as that proposition may sound for each party to a pending divorce, working together in the best interest of the children is vital. The state of Missouri demonstrated this when the requirement for parenting plans was established. Specifically, in 1998, the Missouri General Assembly mandated divorcing parents, with minor children, to file parenting plans.

The main premise in the argument for parenting plans is that parents know their children's needs better than anyone else. Furthermore, parents know, better than anyone else, how they are best suited to fulfill those unique needs. Armed with this knowledge, parents should theoretically be in the strongest position to chart the best parenting course for their children going forward.

How to file

There are two basic ways a parenting plan can be filed. The first is for the plan to be filed separately by each parent. The second is for the plan to be filed through the joint agreement of the parents. Independent of which way parenting plans are filed, the court's next step is the same. Specifically, the court will create child custody and support agreements based on the parenting plan or plans submitted.

There are strict requirements associated with filing parenting plans. For example, a 30-day deadline requires issues to be ironed out within a relatively short period of time. Importantly, this deadline is for 30 days after receiving the summons, or filing an entry of appearance, whichever happens first.

Key issues

Parenting plans in Missouri focus on four key issues. Plans submitted to the court are expected to provision for each of these issues:

  • Child custody and visitation. The fundamental question that must be answered for this issue include whether sole or joint custody is recommended. The specifics of visitation rights are also to be highlighted.
  • Decision-making rights and responsibilities. Children's education and health care decisions are among those for which divorcing parents must clarify rights and responsibilities.
  • Dispute resolution. Disputes may inevitably arise, and the court would like to prepare for this contingency in a way that limits harm to the children involved.
  • Expenses of the children. Responsibility for providing for the needs of the children involved is another key issue.

In summary, the parenting plan is expected to describe how each parent-child relationship will work going forward.

Keywords: divorce, parenting plan, children