If you and your spouse are contemplating a California divorce and are also parents, your children should be the primary concern of both of you. As explained by the California Court System, you must have a written parenting plan in place prior to the finalization of your divorce. You and your spouse have enormous leeway in what you choose to include in your parenting plan before you sign it and file it with the court. It must be in the best interests of your children, however, for the judge to sign it himself or herself and make it an enforceable court order.
Whatever else your parenting plan includes, it must include a schedule for when your children will spend time with each parent. It also must include the agreements you and your spouse make with regard to which of you, or both, will make the following types of decisions regarding your children:
- Day care arrangements
- Medical and dental care
- Emergency care if and when needed
- Which, if any, religious activities they will participate in
- The job and driving restrictions they will have when the time comes
When deciding upon where your children will be and with whom, make sure to take their respective ages, personalities, school and extracurricular activities, favorite pastimes and abilities into consideration. Also consider any chronic physical or developmental conditions they have, such as asthma, allergies, learning disabilities, ADHD, etc. Keep in mind that your respective parenting times need not be the same for each child. Do try your best, however, to make sure that all of your children have togetherness times with each other as well as with you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse.
Children thrive best when they have a reliable schedule that they can count on and plan for from day to day and week to week. Consequently, when devising your parenting plan, you should also take into consideration the respective job demands of each parent and the distance you will be living apart. If you and your spouse intend to share joint legal custody, make sure each child’s school knows which of you will pick up him or her on which days.
Bottom line, the more time and effort you and your spouse put into your parenting plan, the less time you will spend arguing about it after your divorce. This is educational information only and not intended to provide legal advice.