Divorced or separated parents who time-share a child must work together with their partner parent to foster a respectful coparenting relationship. Pennsylvania requires parents to submit a parenting plan during custody proceedings to outline how the child will be cared for in the future.
The purpose of a parenting plan
A parenting plan provides a framework for access to the child and governs the relationship the parents have with the child. A strong parenting plan evaluates all facets of a child’s well being and focuses on the best interests of the child. Putting the child’s needs first means facilitating and encouraging a close parent-child relationship with both parents, honoring the time-sharing schedule and being flexible.
Parenting plan requirements
Pennsylvania law lists specific requirements for parenting plans. The plan should outline legal custody and who has decision making powers for the child’s education, religion and healthcare. The courts also require a child custody schedule detailing when each parent will spend time with the child during the school year, summer vacation and holidays or other days of special significance.
While often mundane, parents need to address smaller details such as the transportation and pick up times and locations for the child exchange. Pennsylvania also requires parents to detail out when and how parents may contact one another and how the child may contact either parent.
Additional beneficial clauses
While not required, parents may find it helpful to include additional provisions in a parenting plan. For instance, a clause preventing either parent from altering the child’s appearance without the other parent’s consent, such as a dramatic haircut might be helpful. Parents may also wish to limit a child’s unsupervised access to smartphones or tablets.
Plans are unique to the needs of the child and parents. Plans differ based on the number of and ages of the children and the amount of time spent with each parent. A successful coparenting arrangement allows a child to have access to and a loving relationship with both parents while ensuring their best interests.