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4 things every parenting plan needs to address

Negotiating with your spouse after you've already split up is probably a lot worse than it was to negotiate when you were still together -- so, is it really worth sitting down to hash out a parenting plan together?

It is -- unless you want a judge to make all the decisions about your children's future. By writing your own parenting plan, you and your spouse will retain more control over your personal lives and can end up happier in the long run.

A successful parenting plan has to address the following things:

1. A Custody Rotation

You need to give the court details about who will physically care for the children at what times.

The trend in recent decades is toward shared parenting plans, where each parent gets roughly equal time with the kids. If this doesn't work for some reason, be prepared to explain to the judge why you're both of the opinion that an alternative arrangement is best. Don't forget to address important issues like holidays, birthdays and other special events.

2. Big Decisions

Physical custody gives you custody of the child. Legal custody gives you the right to make major decisions for that child -- such as where he or she goes to school, what type of religious upbringing he or she will have and what type of medical care he or she receives. Your agreement needs to spell out who can make these decisions. If they're to be made jointly, what happens in an emergency?

3. Other Important Issues

Sometimes it's important to address other issues in a parenting plan. For example, if you and your spouse were raised in different religions but agreed to raise the children in their mother's religion when they were born, it's wise to put that agreement in writing in the parenting plan.

4. Dispute Resolution

Finally, a good parenting plan is also going to address how disputes and changes are to be handled. If you want the parenting plan to be reviewed every three years for updates, for example, that's important to address.

Consider getting an attorney's advice before you finalize any parenting and custody plan with your spouse and present it to the judge. An attorney can help make sure that you haven't left any important issues unaddressed.

Source: FindLaw, "The Parenting Agreement," accessed July 31, 2017

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