What Is a Co-Parenting Plan and How Does It Work?

Just over 40% of first marriages end in divorce, and most of them end within 14 years of the marriage. Many divorcing couples have young children, and parenting and custody issues are among the top sources of conflict in divorce proceedings. With the help of a New Jersey family law attorney, divorcing couples can create a co-parenting plan that works for everyone.

What Is a Co-Parenting Plan?

A co-parenting plan is a living document that establishes guidelines for divorcing parents to follow when raising their children. These plans go into detail about issues that are common sources of conflict, such as medical care, visitation, family celebrations, religious practices and education. Through mutual agreement, both parents can agree to make changes to the plan as children get older, new situations arise, household income changes or other unforeseen circumstances occur.

How Does a Co-Parenting Plan Work?

A co-parenting plan is a framework. It provides general direction on handling a wide range of situations that may come up with children whose parents are divorced. For example, if your child has an accident at school, the co-parenting plan may delineate who leaves work to pick up the child, who pays for the emergency room visit and who handles follow-up visits. It may also include a schedule for summer vacations, birthdays and holidays. A co-parenting plan can’t possibly cover every situation that might come up in a household, but it does provide a carefully thought out plan for both parties to follow. As time passes and family circumstances change, the plan can be updated and revised by working with a New Jersey family law attorney.

Who Negotiates a Co-Parenting Plan?

Many divorcing parents use a mediator to establish a co-parenting plan. A family law attorney can also create this type of plan. In most cases, each parent has their own attorney. The parents separately indicate their preferences, and the attorneys handle the negotiation. Once all parties agree on the co-parenting plan, it becomes part of the divorce settlement.

When Should I Consider a Co-Parenting Plan?

Any parent of a child under the age of 18 may benefit from a co-parenting plan. When both parents want and plan to be part of the child’s life, creating this road map helps identify expectations for each parent’s role. The best time to create a co-parenting plan is during the divorce process.

Why Is a Co-Parenting Plan a Good Idea?

A co-parenting plan may help you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse avoid time in court. The less time you spend in court, the less stressful your divorce will be on you and your children. Less time spent in court also reduces the cost and time requirements of a divorce. Instead of focusing your energies on conflict with your ex-partner, you can focus on moving forward, building a strong relationship with your child and recovering your mental health after years of a stressful marriage.

What Should I Include in a Co-Parenting Plan?

A co-parenting plan should include issues that are likely to be a source of future conflict. For example, your plan could include who gets the children on holidays and their birthdays, whether or not the children will be brought up in a particular religion, and who will be responsible for making medical decisions for the children. A co-parenting plan could also include aspects of general daily life, like who coordinates picking up the children’s prescriptions or taking them for well child visits at the pediatrician’s office.

When you’re considering a divorce and have one or more children, speaking with a New Jersey family law attorney may help you create a co-parenting plan that works for everyone. To schedule a consultation at the Cherry Hill, NJ law office of Morgenstern & Rochester, call (856) 489-6200. You may also complete our online contact form, and an office associate will reach out to you.