What is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is a required document that defines all child custody matters and is filed with the court. It explains the parties' agreement (or the court's order) regarding visitation, legal decision making, transportation, and many other topics related to the parties' children. Because it guides the parties on all post-divorce related matters pertaining to their children, we consider it the most crucial child custody document in Georgia. Like most areas of Georgia law related to divorce, if the parties cannot agree, the judge will make the ultimate decision considering proposals submitted by each parent and the best interests of the child.
Parenting Plan Requirements
Most importantly, a parenting plan must address where a child will reside at all given times, including the regular visitation schedule and special provisions for summers and holidays.
A parenting plan is not complete without a final decision maker for each major legal decision-making category: health care, education, extracurricular activities, and religion. Although most cases have joint legal decision making, a final decision must be made when the parties disagree and documented in the parenting plan.
A parenting plan must also address how exchanges of custody will occur. After a divorce, exchanges of custody can be tricky since they involve seeing one another and potentially a new spouse if they are remarried. Consideration should be given to the time and location for where the exchange will take place. Ideas include the person starting their parenting time picking up at the home where the child is or meeting at a mutually agreed public place, like a mall or police station, where both parties feel safe.
Georgia law requires a parenting plan to include language that allows both parents to have access to their child's records and information related to education, health, and extracurricular activities.
Clauses to Consider
"Neither parent shall consume excessive amounts of alcohol in the presence of the children, nor shall use of illegal drugs be allowed or tolerated in any way."
"Neither parent will have an overnight guest of the opposite sex to whom that parent is not related by blood or marriage while the children are present."
Parents may choose to insert such provisions to ensure that their children are not exposed to their co-parent's romantic partners too early or too often.