Developing a Parenting Plan

If you are divorcing or separating from your spouse in South Carolina and have children, ensuring that your children’s best interests are protected is surely a top priority. This is why there are dozens of things that you will need to consider as you and your spouse navigate the process of determining with whom your child will live, who will make decisions related to the child, and who will be responsible for certain child-rearing duties and expenses.

While parents can turn to the court to decide the above issues regarding a child and their care, parents are encouraged to first attempt to work together to create a parenting plan. The following is an outline of the basic elements of a parenting plan, what your parenting plan should include, and tips for the successful formation of a parenting plan. For help along the way, please contact Cate & Brough Law Firm, P.A.

What Is a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a proposed legal arrangement (that a court will either approve or deny) that a parent or parents form. The parenting plan addresses the custody arrangement that is preferred. Parents are encouraged to form a parenting plan together which, assuming it meets the best interests of the child, will almost always be approved by a court. If parents are not able to work together to create a parenting plan, each parent may submit their own version of a parenting plan, and the court will decide which parenting plan is most-suited for the child’s needs.

What Do Parenting Plans Need to Include?

A parenting plan template provided by the state of South Carolina contains all of the information that your parenting plan needs to include. Your parenting plan should:

  • Designate which type of custody arrangement you propose. Parents can opt for sole custody, joint custody, joint custody with primarycustody going to one parent and secondary custody going to the other, or another type of proposed custody arrangement created by parents.
  • Determine how major decisions concerning the child will be made. Parents are also asked to list major decisions that will be discussed amongst parents before going into effect, who will make these decisions, and how any disputes about these decisions will be resolved. The court encourages parents to, at the very least, address topics such as medical and dental care, religious upbringing, education, and extracurricular activities.
  • A proposed division of time. Using a 14-day time period, the court asks parents to propose how time will be divided per day, and that parents make considerations for special circumstances during the school year, such as extended weekends. Parents are also asked to address a summer schedule, deciding between maintaining the same schedule that was used during the school year, or creating a new schedule. Additionally, a schedule for holidays and birthdays should also be proposed.
  • Restrictions and other considerations. There is also a section in the parenting plan where parents can also list any restrictions that they wish the other parent to abide by. For example, one parent may request that the other parent refrain from disparaging them in front of the child, or consuming alcohol while the child is in their care. Any other considerations for the court may also be listed.

How to Develop a Parenting Plan

You can develop your parenting plan on your own or with the help of a family law attorney. It is usually best to retain skilled legal representation, so you can get most of what you want out of the agreement and so that your interests and your children’s interests are fully protected throughout the process. This is especially helpful if the discussions become contentious.

A family law attorney will also navigate you through developing a parenting plan and ensure that you are not missing any information. Since you may be dealing with emotional issues from your divorce and you only want to focus on getting back on track with your life, it may be wise to hire a lawyer who can take care of all your legal needs during this transitional time.

A family lawyer will let you know what you need to include, such as who will care for your children and how you will divide custody. There are two components to custody—legal and physical.  Legal has to do with decision making authority.  Physical has to do with the time the child spends with each parent.  Youyou’re your child/children’s other parent can either share joint custody or, under more extreme circumstances, one of you may be given sole custody.

Of course, this is just a general guideline. You can also include special provisions like how you’ll handle your children’s medical needs, how decisions relating to extracurricular activities will be made and who will be responsible for the cost, transportation arrangements if you live a considerable distance from each other, and other similar considerations.  You’ll work with your lawyer to come up with common scenarios you’ll be handling and figure out how to work them into your parenting plan.

Tips for Creating a Parenting Plan in South Carolina

Creating a parenting plan can be tough. While you certainly care about your child’s best interests and the relationship they maintain with their other parent, you may also be coping with raw feelings and emotions of your own. This can make it hard to be clear-headed during the parenting plan formation process.

Being willing to compromise, focusing on being a good listener, remaining reasonable, and committing to be civil and amicable is advised. Working with a counselor or mediator can also help.

Further, don’t overlook the importance of working with an experienced South Carolina divorce and family law attorney. An attorney can not only assist you in understanding child custody laws in the state, but also guide you through negotiations with your spouse and help you to create a legally sound parenting plan.

Getting Approval from the Courts

Ultimately, the court will likely approve your parenting plan if it is agreed upon between the parties.  If you cannot agree, however, the judge will decide how to divide time and decision making based on his or her view of what’s best for the child.

If the parenting plan that is implemented is not working out for you, there is a possibility you can petition the court to have it changed. You will have to show a substantial change in circumstances has occurred since the plan was issued, and that the change is detrimentally affecting your child.  Just remember that you should be as amicable as possible with your child’s other parent and try to work things out (between yourselves) as much as you can.  If you come to an understanding, if it changes your original parenting plan significantly you should also consider formalizing the change with the court.

One of the major reasons why a parenting plan may need to be changed is when one of the parents or the child has a major scheduling change. For example, maybe you got a new job with an entirely different work schedule, or maybe the job requires you to move out of the area. COVID-19 has also brought about many scheduling disruptions, forcing a lot of divorced or separated parents to revisit their parenting plans.

At Cate & Brough Law Firm, P.A., our family law attorneys are here for you. If you have questions about child custody, please contact us today by calling us directly at 864-585-4226.

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Cate & Brough, P.A.

At Cate & Brough, we all have personal experience with family law and family court. We know more than just what the law says about your issue – we know what you are going through.

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