Essential Elements of a Georgia Parenting Plan in Child Custody Cases
If they so choose and they’ve resolved all issues between themselves, couples who don’t have children won’t have to deal with each other ever again after the ink dries on their final divorce decree. Divorcing parents, however, don’t have the same luxury. Mom and dad will have to regularly interact and find a way to work together in raising their children if they both want to have meaningful roles as parents. This can be complicated and perilous, especially when the parents have a difficult time being civil and cooperative.
That is the main reason that Georgia law requires divorcing parents to prepare a comprehensive parenting plan during the proceedings. A well-crafted parenting plan can minimize disputes, tension, and misunderstandings that can have a negative impact on the child as well as their parents.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A Georgia parenting plan is a document negotiated and signed by the parties that addresses both the day-to-day and big-picture issues involved in raising their child. Ideally, the parents can reach agreement as to all of the matters covered by the plan. If the parties can’t agree on and jointly submit a permanent parenting plan, each parent will prepare and present their own proposed plan to the judge.
If one parent fails to submit a proposed plan, Georgia law provides that the judge may adopt the other parent’s plan in full if he or she finds such plan to be in the best interests of the child. The final decree in any legal action involving the custody of a child, including modification actions, must incorporate a permanent parenting plan.
By having one document that provides for the coordination of schedules, allocation of decision-making responsibilities, and other specific parenting issues, it can reduce disagreement and acrimony between divorced parents as to their child’s life and upbringing.
What Do Parenting Plans Cover?
Georgia provides a standardized form for parenting plans. But few parents, children, and families are “standardized.” The circumstances and dynamics of each family should result in a parenting plan that is personally tailored to their unique needs.
That said, there are certain things which must be in every Georgia parenting plan, which will govern the rights and obligations of the parents until and unless the order is modified or when the child turns 18. Georgia law requires that all parenting plans contain clear and detailed information about how the child will be raised and how the parents will interact with each other. This includes specific recognition and acknowledgments that:
- A close and continuing parent-child relationship and continuity in the child’s life will be in the child’s best interest;
- The child’s needs will change and grow as the child matures and demonstrate that the parents will make an effort to parent that takes this issue into account so that future modifications to the parenting plan are minimized;
- A parent with physical custody will make day-to-day decisions and emergency decisions while the child is residing with such parent; and
- Both parents will have access to all of the child’s records and information, including, but not limited to, education, health, extracurricular activities, and religious communications.
O.C.G.A. § 19-9-1 establishes the necessary issues that all Georgia parenting plans must address. This includes the following topics:
- Physical custody and parenting time. The plan should provide specific detail as to how, when, and where each parent will spend time with the child, including identifying the days and weeks the child will be with each parent. If supervision will be needed for any parenting time and, the particulars of the supervision should also be detailed.
- Holidays. The plan should also cover parenting time and scheduling for specific holidays, birthdays, vacations, school breaks, and other special occasions, including the time of day that each event will begin and end. Make sure to cover how to handle unexpected circumstances and temporary adjustments to the schedule.
- Transportation. The parents should agree on specific transportation arrangements for exchanging the child, including the location of the exchange, payment of transportation costs, and any other matter relating to the child spending time with each parent.
- Allocation of decision-making authority. Parents make decisions that affect their child every single day. The plan needs to be clear about who has the power to make these decisions, specifying whether choices on specific issues can be made unilaterally or only after both parents reach an agreement. Smaller, day-to-day decisions will usually be made by the parent who is caring for the child on any given day. As for larger, more consequential decisions, one parent may be given the authority to make such decisions or the parents can share the decision-making responsibility for such issues. Major decisions include things like:
- Non-emergency healthcare
- Religion and religious training
- Extra-curricular activities and camps
- Information sharing. Every parent wants to know what is going on with their child and should have the right to get such information. The plan should provide for the sharing of important information such as that relating to education, health, extracurricular activities, and religious communications
- Communication. The plan should set parameters as to how (phone, Skype, texting, etc.) and when a parent can communicate with their child when they are in the other parent’s custody.
Speak With an Experienced Alpharetta Child Custody Lawyer at North Metro Litigators Today
Parents may make the decision to get divorced, but children must live with the fallout of that choice. They also must build a new life, and how and where they do so can be one of the most contentious issues in a divorce. Our Alpharetta child custody lawyers work with parents to craft parenting plans and child custody arrangements which focus on the child’s best interests and ensure that the bonds between parent and child are preserved and strengthened during and after the divorce.
Please call the child custody attorneys at North Metro Litigators today at (678) 944-0000 or contact us to arrange for your free initial consultation.