New Year, New Parenting Plan


The start of a new decade. A fresh beginning. Kicking off a new year can have an allure that drives you to want to do more and take on more than ever before. It can be a time of self-reflection, especially after the holidays and spending more time with family and friends. This new-found drive often leads people to want to spend more time cherishing their relationships. It can also develop into a request to change child custody, modify orders, and build a new parenting plan for your children.

What are Parenting Plans

More specifically called a custody and visitation agreement, a parenting plan is a written agreement regarding both decision-making and the time-share of your children. Parenting plans may become a court order after they are written, signed, approved by a judge, and filed with the court.

It is not uncommon for a parenting plan to update every two and a half to three years. As children grow older, their preferences, activities, and best interests can change. Their schedules often fluctuate based on school, sports, and other extracurricular activities. It then may make sense to adjust their time and days spent with each parent.

Changing Your Custody and Visitation Agreement

If you’re beginning the process of looking into changing your custody and visitation agreement, or parenting plan, it’s helpful to consult with an attorney. You can also meet with a mediator, as long as you have someone who can be there for your co-parent meetings and direct the conversation to help build a plan together.

If you are changing your parenting plan, here are three things the California Courts states you consider:

  • Both parents have not just the right, but an obligation to care for a child while the child is ill. It is unreasonable to expect the primary custodial parent to take over all care of a sick child, just as it is unreasonable to deny parenting time due to minor illnesses.

  • The child’s feelings count. It is typical for a sick child to be cranky and unhappy; moving him or her to the other home may only intensify these feelings. On the other hand, children are prone to “cabin fever” just like adults. A change of environment may very well make a child feel better and help take his or her mind off the illness.

  • When parents share care of an ill child, clear communication is crucial. If the child is on any kind of medication, knowing when the child took his or her last dose or when the next dose should be given is important information that parents should convey when exchanging the child. Both parents may want to keep a simple log of what medications the child is taking and what the medication schedule is.

Choosing What’s Best for Your Child

A new year can be exciting and you may be hoping for lots of positive changes and improvements in your life. Be sure that when you’re working with your co-parent on a new custody and visitation agreement that you’re putting your child first and choosing what’s best for them, not what you think will be best or most convenient for you.

It’s not uncommon to disagree with your co-parent on what’s best for your child. Here are some key things you both can do to help alleviate disagreements and/or potential issues:

  • Watch your child for upsets and/or depression. If you’re finding your child is having a hard time coping with your divorce and changes to their custody, consider setting up a therapist or other professional appointment for them to have an opportunity to speak to someone else, rather than their two fighting parents. Their therapist or professional can help identify and recommend the best solutions for your child.

  • Check your child’s schedule. This one may sound like a no-brainer, but it may be more sensible for your child to stay with your co-parent over weekends. For example, if their baseball games are 45 minutes across town from you but right down the street from your co-parent, it probably makes sense for your child to stay with your co-parent on those days. This can alleviate travel time for both you and your child, leaving more time to spend in each other’s company instead of driving around town every week.

  • Listen. This one is important specifically for older children. As your child grows and their preferences change, they might wish to spend the school week near their peers and friends, or closer to the library to study and get things done before the weekend. It can be crucial to consider their opinion. At the end of the day, you as co-parents will get to decide their schedule, but it is important for your child to feel loved, listened to, and considered during this process.

If you're considering changing your parenting plan, we can answer your questions and help you navigate the legalities and understand the process.Contact our offices today to learn more or schedule your consultation with our team.