7 Overlooked Provisions to Include in Your Parenting Plan

When divorcing with children, the importance of having a well-thought-out parenting plan cannot be overstated. While a lawyer will make sure you cover all of the basics, there are some additional provisions you might want to consider.

While some of the issues they address may never become a problem, having a provision in place protects against them and makes the situation easier to manage if they do cause trouble.

As a parent going through a divorce, you may only go through the process of drafting a parenting plan once. A lawyer does it many times for many clients. Here's what seven family law professionals recommend.

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No parental badmouthing allowed

Claiming that not all marriages end in friendly terms is an understatement. However, whatever differences you have with your ex-spouse are between you and them. Your children have the right to have their own relationship with them.

Philip G. Vera of Michigan Law Services recommends a provision that includes something similar to, "…that the minor children of the parties have an inherent right to the affection and love of both parents and to a relationship with each parent. The parties agree and it is ordered that neither will take any action, either directly or indirectly, that might estrange the minor children from the other parent or tend to discredit, cause disrespect to, or diminish the quality of the relationship with the other parent."

The main idea of this provision is to provide legal recourse for the parent that is under attack through their child by their ex-spouse's badmouthing and possible brainwashing. He adds that this kind of indirect attack is most seen when one parent begins a new relationship.

Haircuts matter

One of the toughest parts of entering a shared custodial arrangement is that you are only with your children sometimes instead of all the time. You will miss certain parts of their lives. That doesn't mean though that your ex-spouse gets carte blanche on all aspects of raising them.

Lawyer Tara Scott of The Law and Mediation Offices of Tara Scott recommends considering a clause that limits any one parent's ability to make any major changes to your child's appearance. It would read something similar to, "Neither parent shall substantially alter the child's appearance without the written consent of the other".

The main idea here is to make sure one parent doesn't do anything extreme, such as get a child's ears pierced.

No stealing time

It's no surprise that even after a divorce negative feelings can linger. Sometimes one parent tries to harm the other in any way possible due to those leftover pain, anger, or feelings of betrayal.

A very common tactic is for one parent to try and schedule events and activities during times when their child is planned to spend with the other parent. Ariel Sosna and Sarah Van Voorhis of Van Voorhis Sosna recommend adding a clause similar to, "Neither parent may enroll a child in any extracurricular activity that may occur on the other parent's custodial time without the written consent of the other parent."

This helps prevent one parent from stealing custody time away from the other through deceitful means.

Itemize certain expenses

Aside from focusing only on time splits and how you agree to raise your children, you can also include provisions about how child support will be handled within your parenting plan.

Scott Kimberly of the Law Office of W. Scott Kimberly explains, "One thing I always encourage in a parenting plan is to separate health insurance premiums and childcare costs from the child support payment. In Tennessee, health insurance premiums and childcare costs are factored into the total child support award. However, if a parent receiving child support stops paying for health insurance or childcare costs, the parent paying child support is not relieved of paying an amount to reimburse for those costs until he returns to court and gets a court order! If the health insurance premiums and childcare costs are addressed in a separate part of the plan, then the parent paying child support may be able to avoid a trip to court of those numbers change."

You will of course want to make sure that your lawyer feels this is okay within your locale.

How will you handle the iPad

As more children spend more unsupervised time than ever in front of screens thanks to smartphones and tablets, deciding on the details up front can be important.

Doreen Yaffa of Yaffa & Associates suggests including a provision that dictates the children's use of electronics such as a smartphone including but not limited to at what age usage is allowed, who maintains and pays for the devices and monthly fees, and allowable times of usage.

It's not the most common of provisions to include, but doing so up front can minimize disagreements in the future.

Avoid the court when you can

When two sides square off you create a situation where there is often a winner and a loser. This kind of approach can leave a figuratively stale taste in one parent's mouth. That is not always the best way to start a co-parenting relationship.

It can also cause problems further down the road, which is why Gabriel Cheong of the Infinity Law Group believes that more parents should consider including a provision stating that they will first use a mediator or parenting coordinator when disagreements come to light in the future.

He says, "I find that parents who are willing to use parenting coordinators tend to stay out of the courts more and use separate attorneys less. So it's a win-win for the family."

Weekends are important

As cut and dry as a finalized custody calendar can appear, the fact is that there are times when you'll need to rearrange some days due to unexpected life events. When these events occur, having a provision in place can make managing it as well as mitigating arguments that much easier.

Joshua E. Stern of Stern Perkoski recommends including a provision about weekends in your parenting plan.

"It's important that every parenting plan include a provision barring either parent from having three consecutive weekends with the kids. It's very common for parents to alternate weekend parenting time. If one parent vacations with the kids during the other's parenting time, the vacationing parent may find him or herself with three consecutive weekends of parenting time."

He continues, "This is typically too long for the non-vacationing parent to go without seeing his or her kids. A good parenting plan should state that neither parent will go three consecutive weekends without seeing the kids and that, if such a situation arises, that third weekend will be re-assigned to the parent who had not seen the children."

Customize your parenting plan with provisions

Provisions are the foundation of your parenting plan. Custody X Change can help you figure out which provisions work best for your current situation and the future.

It's easy. Just use our parenting plan template to quickly choose the provisions that best suit your circumstances. Each category offers popular provisions and lets you create your own.

The result is a professional document that details your parenting arrangement in airtight legal language.

Custody X Change makes personalizing your plan a breeze.

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