In New Mexico, a parenting plan is an agreement that covers all the details of a custody arrangement, including the parenting time schedule and holidays. This plan, once approved by the court, is binding on both parents and must be followed, although it can be changed if circumstances call for it. Because it is binding and involves your children, it’s vital that you get the parenting plan as right as possible when you are getting divorced or separated. With that in mind, here are six mistakes that are commonly seen in parenting plans that you should avoid making.
A Nonspecific Parenting Schedule
No matter how well you and your co-parent get along, the parenting time should be completely spelled out in the plan and not be vague or too limited in scope. You and your spouse can always agree to make last-minute deviations from the plan – such as switching weekends – without the involvement of the court, so there’s no need to leave the parenting time schedule general in the plan. This way, if problems do arise in the future, you will both have a plan to look to and follow without having to return to court. Holidays and school breaks should be addressed in your plan.
No Custodial Parent Residential Move Clause
Your plan should also provide for a discussion about if the custodial parent or the parent who has the most time with the child wants to move. When the custodial parent wants to move, it can become a very contested issue in court. The plan can provide for how and when a move has to be handled and discussed.
No Terms for Travel
Although it is not a common source of trouble for everyone, you may need to include travel restrictions or provisions for overseas and/or domestic travel in your case. This is usually necessary for parents from different countries or if one or both parents travel overseas frequently. It could, however, also be required in situations where one parent is concerned that the other parent will take the children on trips without discussing it first.
Insufficient Medical Care Provisions
Guidelines for future medical care, such as surgery or orthodontia, should be included in the parenting plan. It should also address just how the costs of the medical care will be handled between both parents.
No Provisions for Disputes
Even the most carefully constructed parenting plan could turn out to have gray areas. Unexpected issues might also arise. Therefore, it’s important to include provisions for handling disputes in the future as well as the cost of those disputes. Mediation, where a third party not related to either side works with both parents to reach agreements, is often used as a first step. It can act as a type of a “buffer zone” for family court disputes, essentially screening out some matters before they go to court by resolving them without direct intervention.
Lack of Future Education Discussion
There should be a section regarding discussion of the educational choices the child will make in the future, including private schools and college. This should also address how the expenses of such education will be handled by both parents.
A parenting plan that is detailed and comprehensive can prevent costly legal disputes in the future and help keep a co-parent relationship free of stress and anger. If you are or will be working on a parenting plan, speak to an experienced family law attorney about it for advice and guidance. He or she will help you craft a plan that meets all your needs and covers as many areas as possible.