Making a Parenting Plan

This video provides general information, not legal advice If you have questions about your specific situation, talk to an attorney

[Making a Good Parenting Plan] The state of Montana believes that in most cases, children should have frequent and continuing contact with both parents To promote this idea, state laws use the term "parenting" instead of the more commonly known "custody" and "visitation" A parenting plan is a blueprint for the family's future life It sets out where the children will live, how much time they will spend with each parent, and which parent will make decisions about things like education and healthcare A parenting plan also establishes child support for one or both parent

Montana uses the term "dissolution" instead of "divorce" If you and your spouse have children under the age of eighteen, you generally must create a parenting plan as a part of your dissolution You will file the plan with the rest of your paperwork Non-married parents can also petition the court for a parenting plan Forms for both dissolutions and parenting plans are available online

MontanaLawHelp also has a link to a document creation program called "LiveHelp Interactive" A program which makes it easy to draft a parenting plan Forms may also be available through a self help law center or in some districts, the clerk of court [Agreeing on a Parenting Plan] If you and your co-parent can agree on a parenting plan, your children will be better off Compromise will help everyone, including you

You know your children better than anyone else If you cannot come to an agreement, strangers will make your decisions for you [Working Out a Schedule] Parents often have the most trouble working out a residential schedule [Residential schedule = where the kids will live] If you agree on a detailed schedule, you can avoid ongoing bickering and arguments The keyword here is detail

Clearly designate which parent the children will be with at any given time The more specific the schedule, the better A neutral third party should be able to look at your plan, and know which parent your kids are with Let's look at an example The school schedule is the normal schedule, the one that you'll follow when there are no special holidays or vacations to consider

Even if this is the schedule you want, you need to think about the details and put them down in writing The time and effort you put in to creating a workable plan will benefit your kid What happens when weekends overlap? To deal with scheduling conflicts, you can use the parenting plan section called "Priorities under the Residential Schedule" You might decide that holidays take first preference, followed by vacations, followed by the school schedule In this case, if it's the mother's Christmas, but the father's weekend, Christmas takes top priority

[Transportation] You need to decide how and where you're going to exchange the kids So, the weekend starts on Friday at five Is that when Dad shows up at Mom's to take the kids? Is that when Mom needs to be at the library to drop the kids off? Meeting at a neutral, public location like a library or a school can help reduce tensions during the hand-off You might not think that such a rigid schedule is necessary, but details are important Details can give your kids security and give you peace of mind

Your kids will be able to plan activities with both parents and with their friends You'll be able to plan your life without constant uncertainty about where the kids will be Once you've figured out a schedule, it may be worth it to get out a big calendar and put what you've created on paper Some parents use Google Calendar to do this >>"So, this weekend is your's on the normal schedule, but it's going to be during the weeks they're going to be with me over summer vacation

" >>"Okay Well then, that weekend goes to you" If you're still having trouble working together, mediation may be able to help you In mediation, a neutral individual sits down with both parents and helps them come to an agreement >>"Every year, one of us should get Christmas and one of us should get Thanksgiving

" >>"I don't know if I can go for a whole Christmas without seeing the kids" >>"It sounds to me like the two of your are willing to trade off Thanksgivings What might be some solutions to deal with Christmas?" >>"Well, I'd be willing to have the kids for just Christmas Eve" A mediator is not like a judge She will not take sides or make decisions for you

Instead, she will help you communicate with your co-parent in a fair and constructive way, so that you can decide what's best for your children In some districts in Montana, mediation may be required before a case goes to court [A word about enforcement] Courts don't want to hear about every minor problem parents encounter Judges will get angry if you drag the other parent in front of them every time he or she is fifteen minutes late That being said, if your co-parent repeatedly violates your parenting plan, you can ask the court for help with enforcement This means that a judge will summon your co-parent to a hearing, and ask him or her for an explanation A judge might then decide to hold that parent in contempt

This is one reason that having a specific schedule is so important [This plan is enforceable] [This plan is not] If your parenting plan calls for "reasonable visition" without anything more specific, then a judge has nothing to enforce Of course, it's almost always better to stay out of the court system Work with your co-parent now to create a clear, fair, and workable schedule, and you can save yourselves future headaches and money [Narrated by Frank Paine] [Written and produced by Lauren Goulding] [For more information about parenting, go to:]

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