Tips for creating a custody plan after a divorce

Divorcing parents need to learn about their custody options, think about the kids and keep the big picture in mind when creating a custody plan.

Divorce is not an unheard-of process in California or the rest of the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 827,261 divorces across the country in a single year. This means the divorce rate in the country is 3.2 per 1,000 people. Even though marital separation is common, it can still be hard for divorcing parents to know how to handle the custody agreement.

Understand custody options

Before anyone can create a parenting plan, he or she needs to understand the legal options available. In California, custody is typically split into physical and legal. Legal custody is who makes important decisions for the children, and physical custody is who the child lives with. These custodies can be split 50/50 or one parent may have more time or legal say. Typically, these agreements are completely separate, so parents may split legal custody equally, but the physical time with children may be uneven.

A major part of this agreement is visitation. How often will the child see each parent? The couple may have several options, including the following:

  • No visitation for one parent.
  • Scheduled visitation for both parents.
  • Supervised visitation for the non-custodial parent.
  • Reasonable visitation to allow the mom and dad to make new plans as needed.

Each couple has to create the plan that is right for their unique situation.

Make the kids' needs most important

Divorces can be contentious, so it may be easy for the mother to use the custody agreement as a way to get back at the father, or vice versa. However, a successful plan will keep the kids' well-being as the most important factor. This means considering the benefit each parent will give to the children as well as thinking about school, babysitters, extracurricular activities and other normal parts of the child's life. Whenever possible, a parenting plan should strive to keep the child's life as normal as possible even if he or she now has to start living in two different homes.

Think about the big picture

While it is important for exes to think about the day-to-day life of co-parenting, they also need to factor in big life events. Who get Christmas, Easter or birthdays? Is it possible to have a combined gathering for any of these events? As a custody plan is created, couples may want to make tentative plans for the future big events. Some people may choose to alternate holidays, so it can be helpful to create a detailed schedule.

For California residents, a divorce is rarely an easy thing. When children are involved, it may be necessary to work with a knowledgeable attorney to create a custody plan that both parents are happy with.