Detailed or Freedom - What Provisions Must Be Specific in your Parenting Order and Why

Coming to an agreement on important issues in your divorce can be a huge advantage. The process will be shortened and probably less expensive. Moreover, you and your spouse can keep some degree over control over a chaotic and turbulent process. Creating a personalized and tailor-made parenting plan is often the central focus for parents during the divorce process, as the children are obviously the most important issue. Settling before court on the provisions of the parenting plan can help parents make a schedule that works individually for their family. Even in the most amicable settlements, though, parents need to be aware that there are some provisions in the plan that should be specific.

The first and most obvious is a regular parenting schedule. Having a regular parenting schedule that simply says the visitation will be “as the parties agree” or something similar is inviting future litigation, unless the parties have a very cordial and amicable relationship. Having specific exchange times and even locations can help reduce friction as it removes the requirement for the parties to always have to discuss and agree on an exchange time and place.

The next is a holiday schedule. Regardless of which holidays your family traditionally celebrates, it is essential to specify who gets the children during which holiday. Moreover, simply writing “Christmas break,” for example, may not be specific enough. Does that mean at the date and time that school is released or on the first day that the children have off of school? This can make an enormous impact on travel arrangements and holiday planning, and parties should be as specific as possible.

Some parties may find it beneficial to add a provision called the “right of first refusal.” This provision states that if the parent who is scheduled to exercise parenting time cannot do so for any reason, such as work or a family emergency, then he or she must contact the other parent and let him or her have the first chance to watch the children, before calling a babysitter or relative. If you decide to include this provision in your plan, it is a good idea to include the length of time that the parent must be absent before this provision applies. For example, it would be silly to have to call the other parent just if you want to make a quick trip to the grocery store while leaving the children with your new spouse. However, without a specific time provision in the clause, it is left open to interpretation and could be a source of conflict.

This is just small sample of the provisions that should be specifically laid out in your parenting plan. We have helped many clients with making sure their parenting plan is specific and protects their rights and their children’s best interest. Call us today at (732) 529-6937 to talk about your case.