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.