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Task number 1 in a divorce with children: The parenting plan

With everything you have to think about as your marriage draws to a close, the most important task before you involves your children. Figuring out a way to ease the transition for them from one household to two might take a significant amount of thought from both you and the other parent.

You know that you need to create a parenting plan that accomplishes this, but knowing what you can and can't include in it requires some research. If you miss an important detail or include something that a Tennessee court might not like, you might end up having to go back to square one.

So, what basic provisions should a parenting plan contain?

Each parenting plan is as unique as the family creating it, but generally, they all contain the following provisions:

  • Living arrangements for the children
  • Visitation schedule
  • Who makes major decisions
  • Arrangements for holidays, vacations and birthdays
  • How contact with extended family is handled

These provisions are essential to your parenting plan, but another provision that many people neglect to include is the method of resolving disputes. Even parents who have a good relationship have differences of opinion and other issues regarding the children from time to time. Including a way to handle these disputes could help avoid confrontations in the future.

Can we include more than just these provisions?

Yes. Beyond these basic provisions, you can tailor your parenting plan to the specific needs of you, the other parent and the children. Your children may have requirements that you should address in your parenting plan. For example, if your child has special needs or a medical condition, you may want to include provisions for his or her care and for the payment of expenses relating to it.

You can also add provisions regarding other routine or extraordinary payments as well. For instance, who will pay for copays at doctor's appointments, how will larger medical bills be split and the like can be included in the agreement. Anything having to do with the children, down to their daily schedule, could end up in the plan.

Getting the court's approval

The court needs to approve the plan. You can submit it along with your divorce settlement. As long as the provisions work for your family, represent the best interests of the children and do not violate current law or public policy, the court should approve it. The trick comes in making sure it meets the court's requirements. In some cases, the court may schedule a hearing to ask questions and discuss the plan.

In order to help ensure that your parenting plan meets with the court's approval, you may consider having an attorney work with you. Not only can your legal advocate ensure that the agreement will stand up to the court's scrutiny, but he or she could also help protect your rights and make sure that the agreement meets with your goals and desires.

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Jackson, TN 38301

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