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Parenting Plans


FAQs

What is a parenting plan?
What is the difference between the custodial parent and primary residential parent?
What factors will the court consider in deciding which parent will be the residential parent?
Which parent has the final say so?
What happens if the parents cannot agree on a decision involving the children?
What are the rights of the noncustodial parent?
What happens if the child wants to live with the other parent?
If both parents split parenting responsibilities, can one avoid paying child support?
If my ex-spouse refuses to make children available for visitation, do I have to pay child support?

What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan is a written document allocating parenting responsibilities, establishing child support, and establishing a permanent residential schedule. The residential schedule outlines when the children are in each parent's care and designates the primary residential parent. The parenting plan is very detailed in that it states dates, times, holidays, etc. for visitation. If you and your spouse cannot agree on a parenting plan, you must first go to mediation before the court will hear the case. Additionally, you are required to attend a four hour parenting class within thirty (30) days of filing the Complaint for Divorce or being served with the Complaint.

What is the difference between the custodial parent and primary residential parent?

The primary residential parent is the parent whom the child normally resides with more than fifty (50%) percent of the time. Since most parenting decisions fall under the day to day designation, the designation of primary residential parent is very important. Under prior law, the custodial parent meant the parent who exercised final decision making authority and the parent with whom the child primarily resided. However under the new parenting plan law, final decision making authority is separate from residential time and can be fragmented between the parents by categories, such as: education, religious training, extra curricular activities.

What factors will the court consider in deciding which parent will be the residential parent?

The court will consider the following factors in determining the primary residential parent:

(1) The parent's ability to instruct, inspire, and prepare the child to compete successfully in society which the child faces as an adult;

(2) The relative strength, nature, and stability of the child's relationship with each parent, including whether a parent has taken great responsibility for performing parenting responsibilities relating to the daily needs of the child;

(3) The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, consistent with the best interest of the child;

(4) Willful refusal to attend a court ordered parent education seminar may be considered by the court as evidence that the parent's lack of good faith in the proceedings;

(5) The disposition of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, education, and other necessary care;

(6) The degree to which a parent has been the primary care giver, defined as a parent which has taken greater responsibility for performing parental responsibility;

(7) The love, affection, and emotional ties existing between each parent and the child;

(8) The emotional needs and developmental level of the child;

(9) The character and physical and emotional fitness of each parent as it relates to his or her ability to parent or as it relates to the welfare of the child;

(10) The child's interaction and interrelationships with siblings and with significant adults, as well as the child's involvement with his or her physical surroundings, school, or other significant activities;

(11) The importance of community in the child's life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment;

(12) The evidence of physical or emotional abuse to child, to other parent, or to any other person;

(13) The character and behavior of any other person who resides in or frequents the home of the parent and such persons interaction with the child;

(14) The preference of the child if the child is twelve (12) years of age or older. The court may hear the preference of a younger child upon request. The preference of an older child is normally given greater weight than the preference of a younger child;

(15) Each parent's employment schedule, and the court may make accommodations consistent with those schedules; and,

(16) Any other factors deemed relevant by the court.

No one factor controls and each must be weighed and considered in relation to the other.

Which parent has the final say so?

Under a permanent parenting plan, the parent allocates decision making authority to one or both regarding the child's education, health care, extra curricular activities and religious upbringing. Therefore, final say so depends upon the topic. The permanent parenting plan must also state that each parent may make the day to day decisions regarding the care of the child while the child resides with that parent. Regardless of the allocation and decision making in the parenting plan, the parties may agree that either parent can make emergency decisions affecting the child's health, safety or welfare.

What happens if the parents cannot agree on a decision involving the children?

If the parenting plan provides for joint decision making and the parents cannot agree, they must first follow the dispute resolution process set forth in the parenting plan before seeking court intervention. This could be court ordered mediation or consultation with an independent third party agreed to by the parents. A disagreeing parent can challenge the other parent's decision authority on the basis that the action taken is not in the best interest of the child. The court will rarely overrule the parent's decision unless it will endanger the child.

What are the rights of the noncustodial parent?

The noncustodial parent has the following rights when the child is not in his or her care:

(1) To unimpeded telephone conversations with the child at least twice each week at reasonable times and for a reasonable duration;

(2) To send mail to the child which the other parent shall not open and will not censor;

(3) To receive notice and relevant information as soon as practical (but within twenty-four hours) in the event of hospitalization, major illness, or death of the child;

(4) To receive directly from the school, upon written request, which includes a current mailing address, and upon payment of reasonable costs of duplicating, copies of the child's report card, attendance records, names of teachers, class schedules, standardized test scores, and any other record customarily made available to parents;

(5) Unless otherwise provided by law, to receive copies of the child's medical, health or other treatment records directly from the physician or health care provider who provided such treatment or health care upon written request which contains a current mailing address and upon payment of reasonable costs of duplication, provided that no person who receives the mailing address of a parent as a result of this requirement shall provide that address to the other parent or to a third person;

(6) To be free of derogatory remarks made about such parent or such parent's family by the other parent to or in the presence of the child;

(7) To be given at least forty-eight (48) hours notice, whenever possible of all extra circular activities, and the opportunity to participate or observe in those activities, including, but not limited to, the following:

(a) school activities;
(b) sports activities;
(c) church activities; and,
(d) other activities during which parental participation or observation would be appropriate.

(8) To receive from the other parent, in the event the other parent leaves the state with the minor child for more than two (2) days, an itinerary, including telephone numbers, for use in the event of an emergency;

(9) Access and participation in the child's education, including the right of access to the minor child for lunch and other activities, on the same basis that is provided to all parents, provided the participation access is reasonable and does not interfere with day to day operations or with the child's educational performance.

(These rights also apply to the primary residential parent when the child is spending time with the other parent.)

What happens if the child wants to live with the other parent?

The child's preference for a change of primary residential parent, by itself, will not constitute sufficient cause for modification. However if the child is over twelve (12) years old, the court will give more weight to the child's preference. The court will look closely at the child's reason for wanting the change and will be very skeptical of any change to avoid discipline in a more strict parent's home.

If both parents split parenting responsibilities, can one avoid paying child support?

No. The only way child support might be ordered if the child resides at each parents an equal amount of time. The primary residential parent will receive child support from the noncustodial parent.

If my ex-spouse refuses to make children available for visitation, do I have to pay child support?

Yes. Child support is not contingent upon seeing your children. To enforce the visitation and parenting rights begin with a petition or mediation.