Most family law practitioners have strong opinions on what should and should not be included in a parenting plan. A significant amount of time is spent in mediations, family law hearings and trials to determine which specific clauses to include or exclude from the parenting plan and what the residential schedule should be.
Here are some of our favorite clauses and the reasons why we like them.
1. Keep exchange times as consistent as possible. If one start time is at 9 a.m., have all start times be 9 a.m. If 10 a.m., then have all at 10 a.m. If end times are 6 p.m., have all end times be at 6 p.m. Don't have the regular weekend end time be at 6 p.m. and the holiday exchange time be at 8 p.m.
Why: Parents will not look at the parenting plan for every exchange and we do not want the child to be stranded at the ferry dock because of what one parent thought was the transfer time even though the parenting plan states a different time. It is also easier for the child to understand and be prepared to follow his or her schedule.
2. Be specific about the beginning and end times of breaks, holidays and vacations. The transfer time can be upon release from school and end with the child's return to school. Or the child transfer time can be 9 a.m. the Monday after the child is released from school and end at 6 p.m. the Friday before the child returns to school.
Why: If the parenting plan states that one parent has the child for a spring break, one parent may think it means Monday through Friday with the regular alternating weekend schedule continuing and the other parent may think it begins when the child is released from school and ends when the child returns to school. The difference is between a seven-day vacation, including five weekdays and the parent's regular weekend, and a nine-day vacation, including five weekdays plus both weekends. The schedule can be either, of course, but the parenting plan needs to be clear to avoid conflict and confusion. We prefer the seven-day vacation period so as to maintain the alternating weekend schedule, so that one parent does not have the child for three weekends in a row.
3. If the child is old enough for a week-on/week-off schedule, then the transfer time should be on Monday after school.
Why: This allows the child to plan his or her weekend with the custodial parent in the days before the weekend. Also, the parent with whom the child spent the week remains responsible for having the child complete homework for that week, which makes it easier to avoid having the child miss assignments or projects, or leaving assignments at the other parent's home in the middle of the week.
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