Effective Custody and Visitation Plans
A successful custody and visitation plan allows you to enjoy your time with your children. Here are some suggestions and tips for making a great plan.
You can create your own custody and visitation plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own plan, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates professional custody and visitation plans and calendars.
Your custody and visitation plan should contain all of the information about how you and your child's other parent will continue to provide for and raise your child after you are no longer together.
Most plans contain the following:
- A custody and visitation schedule
- Information about the care of the child
- Provisions for how the parents will make the plan work
- Any additional information the parents want to include
Your custody and visitation schedule is the plan and calendar that shows when your child will spend time with each parent. A thorough schedule includes the following.
The residential schedule is the everyday schedule of where your child lives and when the child visits the non-residential parent. To make this schedule, you should map out a few weeks of custody and visitation and then repeat the cycle throughout the year.
You need to determine where your child will spend the holidays. To do this, you and the other parent should make a list of holidays to put in the schedule and then allocate the holiday time. You should also think of a process for how you will alternate and rotate holidays through the years.
Vacations and special events
You can include different schedules for school breaks and vacations in order to even out parenting time. You can also put specific weeks in the schedule when each parent can take the children on a vacation. And, if you know of any special times when the normal custody schedule changes, you can put that in the schedule too.
You can make each of these sections by hand with a calendar, or you can use Custody X Change to create your schedule.
Creating your schedule with Custody X Change allows you to:
- Explore different options for your schedule until you find the right one for your child
- Maximize the parenting time you have with your child
- Easily make changes to your schedule as circumstances change
- Sync your custody schedule with your Blackberry, iPhone, Palm/PDA, Outlook, Google Calendar, Yahoo Calendar, Windows Live, etc
- Print multiple copies of your schedule so you and the other parent always know what's going on
Your custody and visitation plan needs to contain information about how you and the other parent will continue to care for your child. You should cover the following topics in your plan.
Decision making responsibility
You and the other parent need to decide how you will make important decisions for the child after you have separated. This includes decisions about medical and dental care, education, religious upbringing, etc.
Many states refer to the decision making responsibility as legal custody. You can have joint legal custody--where both parents have authority to make decisions--or you can have sole legal custody--where one parent is given the authority to make decisions.
Medical and dental care
You should have information about your child's medical and dental care in your plan. This includes information about how you will provide insurance for your child as well as how you will pay for medical expenses. If your child has specific medical needs, you should also address how you and the other parent will handle those needs.
Finances and expenses
Along with information about child support, you and the other parent need to come up with a system for handling extra expenses (like school expenses or medical expenses) that arise.
Communication between the parents
Since you and the other parent are both caring for your child, your plan needs to have a method for how you will communicate with each other about the child. You can decide to have a weekly phone call, email each other, or come up with some other way to share information about the child.
To help with communication, you may want to have both parents keep a custody and visitation journal where you record what goes on during your parenting time.
Your plan should contain the information about your child's education--where your child goes to school, the plan for your child's continuing education, how you and the other parent will decide on future schools, etc. You should also think about the extra activities that your child is involved in and come up with a way for both parents to be involved in those activities.
A process for resolving disputes
As you make your plan, come up with a process for how you and the other parent will resolve future disputes about the plan or the custody arrangements. You can agree to attend mediation or have another system in place.
When you make your plan in Custody X Change, you can add information about how you will care for your children. You can also export your plan to Word and make any changes to your plan or put in more information.
Many parents find it helpful to have rules or provisions in their plan to help it run more smoothly. To think of provisions, you can reflect on your current custody situation and notice areas where there is conflict or problems. Then, you can come up with a provision to address the problem.
Some common custody provisions are:
- Information about transportation to and from exchanges
- No speaking negatively about the other parent in front of the child
- No drinking alcohol or smoking in front of the child
- Providing a travel itinerary to the other parent when traveling with the child
- Giving the other parent the first right to watch the child when a parent isn't available during parenting time
- Anything else that will help you implement your plan
Custody X Change has a list of provisions that you can choose from for your plan. You can also make your own stipulation to include.
The most important thing to consider when creating your custody and visitation plan is your child's needs. You want your plan to promote your child's best interest and help your child adjust to the new family situation. This means that you should think about what will help your child and include any additional information that could benefit your child.