A shared parenting plan is a plan that sets forth the arrangements for the parenting of a minor child or children (children that are 18 and under and not graduated from high school) The term shared is a term that does not denote ownership, as does the term custody. One gets "custody" or ownership of personal property. One does not get ownership of a child. Both parents have rights to parenting time. Some courts prefer to see the parenting arrangement set forth as a Shared Parenting Plan.
Misconceptions of a Shared Parenting Plan
1. Fifty-Fifty Allocation of Time
Many parents think that if they term a parenting arrangement shared that each parent has the exact same amount of time with the child. This is not true. Courts have created a set schedule for a standard parenting arrangement for situations where one parent is the residential parent and the other has the standard parenting time. If one is seeking shared parenting, there is no set schedule. The schedule ends up being what the parties agree to or what the court orders after investigation and hearing. Many times, parties simply incorporate the court's standard schedule into the shared parenting plan.
2. No Child Support
Many parents believe that if they term a parenting arrangement "shared" that they then are relived from paying child support. This is not true. Both parents are still obligated to support their children. They can not forgo that obligation by terming a parenting arrangement shared. A shared parenting plan may call for deviation of child support. That is, given specific reasons, the child support order may increased or decreased. A deviation usually needs to be fact specific and will be reviewed by most courts for approval.
3. No Decisions Without Agreement Of Other Parent
A shared parenting plan does not mean that there always needs to be complete agreement between the parties for every decision regarding the children. This usually is a concern with medical/orthodontic treatment. This is the issue of necessary vs cosmetic. The plan will usually provide for the procedure for obtaining second opinions.
What Needs to be Decided in a Parenting Plan?
Parenting arrangements need to include more than simply the time allocation for the children with each parent. A complete parenting plan should include the following:
- A detailed week to week parenting schedule. This should include specific times for drop off and pick up of the minor child as well as location of drop off and pick.
- A detailed holiday schedule for even and odd years with all dates and times for pick up and drop off.
- Extended parenting time or vacation time including the length of time, the provisions for notice to the other parent and to the children.
- Child support
- Health Care provisions- who is carrying health insurance, how uncovered medical expenses are to be shared by the parents as well as provisions for exchange of medical expenses and time frame for reimbursement.
- Allocation of the annual tax exemption.
- Language for make up time in the case of emergencies
- Provide each parent access to school and health records.
- May need to include language on the number of extracurricular activities and how they are paid.