You must determine if you and your spouse can continue to make joint decisions regarding the children. If so, you can establish a Shared Parenting Plan. A Shared Parenting Plan includes custody, visitation, support, health insurance, transportation, tax exemptions, and many other aspects of parenting.
If your relationship with your spouse is such that you cannot make joint decisions, then a Shared Parenting Plan may not be in your children’s best interest and one parent will be named the residential parent and legal custodian and the other parent will be allowed visitation time with the children.
Both parents may be named residential parents and legal custodians in a Shared Parenting Plan. The parent with whom the children are residing at that particular time will make minor parenting decisions, while the major decisions (i.e. schooling, child care, etc.) will be made jointly by both parents.
A child does not necessarily need to live with a parent one-half of the time for the parents to enter into a Shared Parenting Plan. A Shared Parenting Plan is merely an agreement that states that both parents will continue to raise their children and make joint decisions, based on what they consider to be in the best interests of their children.
Standard – Standard visitation is in accordance with a Court’s Standard Order of Visitation. This normally encompasses every other weekend from Friday at 6:00 p.m. to Sunday at 6:00 p.m. and an additional weekday evening.
Holidays – Holiday visitation in accordance with a Court’s Standard Order of Visitation normally alternates the major holidays.
Birthdays – A child’s birthday can be divided between both parents (i.e. mother from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and father from 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.) or the day can be alternated between the mother and father (i.e. mother would be entitled to the child in odd numbered years and father would be entitled to the child in even numbered years).
Child support is calculated by a Child Support Worksheet. Factors used to determine child support include:
- a party’s annual income
- if a party pays support for other children not of the marriage
- if a party pays for medical insurance for a child
- if a party pays for day care for a child while that party is working
Under some circumstances, child support can be deviated. For example, if a child spends an equal amount of time with each parent.
You must determine who will maintain health insurance for the minor children. For example, which party will pay the first $100 incurred in out of pocket expenses and which party will pay extraordinary medical and dental expenses? It may be acceptable for all uncovered medical and dental expenses to be shared equally by the mother and father.
Transportation to and from visitations with parent is another issue that will need to be addressed. One scenario to consider might be that when the children are residing with their mother, she is responsible for transporting them to and from her residence. When the children are residing with their father, he will be responsible for transporting them to and from his residence.
One example of a tax exemption issue is who will be entitled to claim the children on their income tax returns. One possible solution is for the mother to claim the children in even numbered years and for the father to claim the children in odd numbered years.
These are just a few key points that are addressed in a Shared Parenting Plan. Other factors that are addressed are religious preferences, school preferences, and life insurance policies for the benefit of the children. A Shared Parenting Plan should also include items that you feel may become an issue or a conflict of interest between you and your ex-spouse while raising your children.