As any parent knows, kids change over time. They grow bigger, stronger, more independent, and busier. As they change, it is often necessary for the parenting plan that schedules their residential time to change with them. Last week, this blog discussed flexibility within parenting plans, or within the families following (or not following) a parenting plan. Here we’ll discuss a few ways that parenting plans can address growing children’s changing needs.
First, the form parenting plan provides two paragraphs for planning the child’s residential time with each parent. The two paragraphs address the child’s schedule at two different ages. Paragraph 3.1 of the form parenting plan addresses the child’s residential schedule while the child is under school age. (School age is defined by paragraph 3.2 of the form [usually when the child starts kindergarten or first grade]). Paragraph 3.2 provides the residential schedule for school-age children. This provides families the ability to make two residential schedules within the plan itself. Parents often choose to have more frequent, but shorter visits for the non-primary parent when the child is under school age, and then visits of longer duration when the child is older. These decisions are (hopefully) dependent on the needs of the child and their families.
Second, layered into the existing form, you can also have an even more graduated approach. If the child is very young, the child may need to have very short visits during the first year or so, followed by longer and longer visits all while they are still in the “before school age” definition. Or, you may want to design a different schedule for elementary, middle school, and high school. While the pattern form is designed for two schedules, it is possible to add more than two if both families agree, or if one party convinces the court that it is necessary.
Third, as discussed previously on this blog, parenting plans may be modified by court order. If you have a parenting plan that no longer fits your child because they have changed so much, or because their family structure or lifestyle has changed so much, it might be time to consider a modification of your parenting plan. This can mean a small tweak, or a complete overhaul. There are requirements that need to be met before you can modify the parenting plan if the child’s other parent does not agree to the modification.
This is just three of a myriad of options to make your parenting plan adjust as your child grows. There are many other options. If you would like to discuss any of your options with a family law attorney, please contact us.