In cases where the custody of a child is at issue between the parents in a divorce proceeding, the court may be required to create or approve a parenting plan. A parenting plan establishes how divorced parents will share the responsibilities of childrearing and decision-making with regard to the child. Generally, parenting plans must be agreed to by the parents and approved by the court. If the parties cannot reach agreement on a parenting plan or propose a plan that is not approved by the court, a plan may be established by the court.
Many states have statutory provisions which set out what parenting plans must include. For example, under Section 19-9-1 of the Code of Georgia, unless otherwise ordered by the court, or agreed upon by the parties, a parenting plan shall include, but not be limited to:
Where and when a child will be in each parent's physical care, designating where the child will spend each day of the year;
How holidays, birthdays, vacations, school breaks, and other special occasions will be spent with each parent including the time of day that each event will begin and end;
Transportation arrangements including how the child will be exchanged between the parents, the location of the exchange, how the transportation costs will be paid, and any other matter relating to the child spending time with each parent;
Whether supervision will be needed for any parenting time and, if so, the particulars of the supervision;
An allocation of decision-making authority to one or both of the parents with regard to the child's education, health, extracurricular activities, and religious upbringing, and if the parents agree the matters should be jointly decided, how to resolve a situation in which the parents disagree on resolution;
What, if any, limitations will exist while one parent has physical custody of the child in terms of the other parent contacting the child and the other parent's right to access education, health, extracurricular activity, and religious information regarding the child.
The objectives of a parenting plan are to:
Provide for the child's physical care;
Maintain the child's emotional stability;
Provide for the child's changing needs as the child grows and matures, in a way that minimizes the need for future modifications to the permanent parenting plan;
Set forth the authority and responsibilities of each parent with respect to the child;
Minimize the child's exposure to harmful parental conflict;
Encourage the parents to meet their responsibilities to their minor children through agreements in the permanent parenting plan, rather than by relying on judicial intervention; and
To otherwise protect the best interests of the child.
[Last updated in July of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]