When a couple is divorcing or separating, they will likely try to protect their children from conflict. Children can feel their parents’ stress. This is why it is important for divorcing and separating couples to dissolve their marriage or relationship as amicably as possible. One of the ways for Minnesota couples to do this is to develop a parenting plan for child custody and parenting time.
What is a parenting plan?
A parenting plan is a term used to reference the agreements parents make for raising their children. When the term “parenting plan” is used informally, it means the basic provisions included in a divorce or custody decree that set out the custody responsibilities and parenting time schedules. When the term “parenting plan” is used formally, it is used to reference a very specific statute in Minnesota found at Minn. Stat. § 518.1705. When agreeing to a formal parenting plan under Minn. Stat. § 518.1705, the parties may use alternative designations for legal and physical custody, but they must include a traditional designation of sole or joint custody for out-of-state enforcement purposes. When using a formal parenting plan under the statute, an agreement regarding how the parties will resolve disputes must be included in the plan.
A good parenting plan will clearly state the ways that parents will share child custody responsibilities. There are a number of parenting plan options available for divorced and separating parents. The plan should take the children’s ages and emotional and developmental needs into consideration because they will change as the children get older and should always be based on their best interests. For example, vacations that are two weeks long may not be appropriate for a 4-year-old because of the length of time the young child would be away from the non-vacationing parent, but this may not be an issue when the child is older. A parenting schedule should also take each parent’s work or school schedules and the proximity between the parents’ homes into account.
Is a parenting plan necessary?
Parents are not required to create a formal parenting plan under Minn. Stat. § 518.1705. Minnesota law only requires custody designations and a parenting time schedule in a divorce decree or custody order.
How detailed does a parenting plan need to be?
Parenting plans for child custody can outline basic responsibilities for parenting or they can be very detailed. The plan must include a schedule so that each parent will know which days or times they will be caring for the children. Good plans include enough detail that each parent has clarity about the schedule, exchange locations, holiday celebrations, and decision-making for the children. Clarity helps avoid conflict in raising the children. It is best for parents to work together to create a plan that works for both parties and takes into account future considerations.
When a solid plan is established, ex-spouses and former partners typically have less conflict in the future because there are fewer ambiguities. Parents know their children and their unique circumstances better than anyone, and a parenting plan developed by the parents will allow the plan to be tailored to their family.
Divorcing and separating couples should have quality legal representation throughout the divorce or custody proceedings. This will help ensure that details are clearly identified, and expectations are known so the parents can co-parent in a manner that is in the best interests of their children.