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The elements of a parenting plan in California

Custody and visitation agreements, also called parenting plans, are written agreements between parents concerning time sharing and decision making for the children. Of the two primary components of a parenting plan, time sharing refers to the amount of time each parent spends with the child and the accompanying schedule and decision making refers to how important decisions will be made concerning the health, education and overall welfare of the child and who will make those decisions.

Having a parenting plan in writing is important to create stability and predictability for parents and children. The parenting plan will become the court ordered child custody and visitation agreement and will outline shared parenting time. Child custody arrangements are always based on what is in the best interests of the child. Basic considerations for a parenting plan include love, protection and guidance; adequate medical care; a nutritious diet; and getting enough rest.

In addition, while remaining focused on achieving what is in the best interests of the child in the parenting plan, it is important to consider the individual personality and needs of the child. It is also important to provide consistent times for daily care, overnights, vacations, holidays, extracurricular activities and homework. Using a calendar can be helpful. Creating a reliable routine that can be easily enforced should be a goal of the parenting plan. While it is important that both parents have access to the child, it is also useful to be flexible and remain focused on what is in the best interests of the child.

Child custody concerns can be a particularly emotional part of any divorce or end of a relationship. Understanding how child custody arrangements are established can help parents focus on creating a parenting plan that has a primary purpose of the well being of the child.

Source: California Courts, "Parenting Plans," Accessed March 15, 2017

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