Your parenting plan in New Mexico is, in basic terms, a contract that will detail and outline the responsibilities and rights of each parent when it comes to child support, time sharing and custody. As your child custody attorney may have already explained to you, this plan is necessary to finalize a divorce involving children or as a final step in a custody case. Disputes between parents are common as time goes on and circumstances change. A comprehensive plan can help prevent disputes in the future, so working with your attorney to ensure you avoid the common mistakes outlined below is always a good idea.
Not Outlining the Current Status Quo
Your plan should have your status quo providers listed clearly. Status Quo includes your child’s residence, school, religion, doctors, dentists and extracurricular activities. This is essential information that sets forth what your child(ren) are accustomed to and what should not be changed unless by agreement of the parties or order of the Court.
Leaving Out a Relocation Provision
Child relocation cases are often stressful and emotional, but can be expensive and time-consuming. Addressing relocation by motion with the Court, rather than by prior agreement, can often take an extensive amount of time, leaving you waiting for the Court to decide something that may have already passed. This is why your plan should have a provision that neither parent shall take the child out of New Mexico, except for a typical vacation, with the approval from the other party in writing and should set forth what the vacation policy between parents is.
Failing to Create Schedules for Vacations or Holidays
Disputes about which parent will have the child(ren) during holidays are common, yet avoidable. It is always a great idea to include in your parenting plan a detailed schedule for parenting time allocation over holidays and vacations that will control which parents spends time with your child(ren) on which holiday.
A rule of thumb for determining such a schedule is to pay particular attention to the holidays that hold the most importance to your family. If, for example, Christmas Eve is more important on your side of the family than Christmas Day but Christmas Day is a big deal for your co-parent’s family, it may make more sense for you to have the children on December 24th and your co-parent to have them on December 25th. You can also have a schedule that alternates these two days between the two of you every other year, to avoid having to come back to Court to decide the matter.
For spring and summer breaks, it is typicaly to split the time in half with your co-parent or work out another schedule that makes sense for you, your co-parent and your child. Other holidays commonly addressed in a parenting plan are the child’s birthday, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and Thanksgiving. Depending on your children’s ages and importance to you, your child and your family’s traditions, it is often advisable to include holidays such as Halloween and New Year’s Eve and Day.
Failing to Include Coparenting Conduct
By the time parties are at the stage of creating a parenting plan, they have typically reached something of an equilibrium in the relationship with the other parent. However, this can (and often does) change. A good parenting plan includes language that defines how the parties are to interact with each other and with the child(ren) in order to facilitate positive co-parenting. For instance, a good parenting plan will include language that disparaging remarks about the other part will not be made to, or in the presence of, the child(ren). A good parenting plan will detail that each parent will keep the other parent informed of noteworthy events during their period of responsibility, such as parenting decisions that require the enforcement of both parents, a child’s injury and medical decisions. A good parenting plan will include that both parents will keep the other informed about the child(ren)’s schooling, missed assignments, parent-teacher conferences and the like and will cooperate with one-another for the best interests of the child(ren). Failure to include these provisions may lead to discord in the future that may be difficult to prove and redress in Court.
Vague Time Sharing Terms in the Plan
Parenting plans should be as specific as possible to avoid issues about interpretation or enforcement in the future. Some parenting plans include vague phrasing such as “Parents will decide time sharing”. While this may seem ideal at the time, it may very well lead to court battles or unnecessary arguments between you and your co-parent in the future as the nature of the relationship between parents changes and ability to constructively co-parent diminishes. Parenting plans should have time sharing instructions that are clearly defined by day and time. Your agreements should also address how child pick-ups and drop-offs will work, including times and location. If the parents have a volatile relationship, it’s best to go with a supervised or public exchange location.
Your attorney will help you draft your parenting plan, but co-parenting is an ongoing task that both parents will have to address throughout their children’s life. Parenting plans can be modified down the line as your child(ren) grow older and their needs change. However, modification can be difficult and it always best to make a comprehensive parenting plan so you are not mired in disputes that could have been avoided had a more comprehensive parenting plan been prepared.