Even parents in Saint Louis County who are facing the end of their marriage or relationship still want to do what is best for their child. Therefore, it is sometimes possible for them to put their differences aside and discuss their child custody issues out-of-court. Oftentimes the result of such conversations is a written parenting plan that can be approved by the court and made legally binding.
Some couples choose to enlist the aid of a third-party mediator when negotiating a parenting plan. And, even in an informal setting both parties can be represented by an attorney, to ensure their interests are protected and that they understand what they are agreeing to. There are several issues that a comprehensive parenting plan should address.
Physical custody — that is, which parent the child will live with — is one of the primary issues to resolve in a parenting plan. Unless parents agree to joint physical custody, the parenting plan will also include provisions regarding the noncustodial parent’s visitation schedule. Special occasions, such as holidays, birthdays and vacations can also be addressed in a parenting plan.
Legal custody entails the right to make major life decisions with regards to raising the child, such as where the child will go to school, what doctors the child will see and what religion the child will practice. A parenting plan can allocate legal custody jointly to both parents. If joint legal custody is not appropriate, then a parenting plan can allocate legal custody to one parent only.
Parenting plans can address more than just custody issues. It can include provisions regarding the child’s contact with other relatives and family friends. A parenting plan can even include provisions about how child custody disputes will be resolved and what process the parties will use if one of them wishes to modify the parenting plan.
A final parenting plan can be submitted to the court for approval. Sometimes a hearing is held. If the judge believes that the parenting plan is fair and that it meets the child’s best interests, it may approved by the court and thus will be legally binding.
This post only provides a basic overview of parenting plans. Each parenting plan must be tailored to meet each family’s unique needs. There may be issues addressed in a parenting plan not named here, and this post cannot guarantee that a parenting plan will be accepted by the court. Therefore, those who wish to resolve their child custody issues out-of-court may want to seek professional guidance.