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What is the purpose of a parenting plan?


Keep your children happy and healthy with a parenting plan that is right for them.

§4.2            B.  Overview and Purpose of Parenting Plans

A court-ordered parenting plan governs how parents will share the “care, custody and management of their child,” a fundamental liberty interest recognized by the United States Supreme Court. See Santosky v Kramer (1982) 455 US 745, 754, 102 S Ct 1388. In resolving disputes between parents about sharing the care, custody, and management of a child, California family courts use the “best interest of the child” standard. Fam C §3011. This standard requires an individualized determination of a parenting plan for the child or children at issue. Child custody cases are not contests in which a parent or other person “wins” the children; they are a process for developing a court order that allocates parental rights and responsibilities. That order is a parenting plan.

Child custody work focuses on developing, implementing, adapting, or modifying the parenting plan. Thus, the provisions of the plan or proposed plan are the best way to organize analysis, negotiation, evidence, and advocacy concerning custody and visitation. The strongest child custody evaluations, for example, gather and analyze facts about the individual family through the lens of research and clinical knowledge to consider the risks and benefits of alternative parenting plan provisions. On evaluations, see chap 9.

Family law professionals try to focus decision-makers’ attention on the risks and benefits of alternate parenting plan provisions rather than on “winning” or “losing” custody. This starts with working with the client to develop a detailed proposed parenting plan. That proposed parenting plan gets used in negotiations and mediation, and should be attached to the pleadings as the relief requested in every request for orders, responsive declaration to a request for orders, and trial brief in which custody or visitation is at issue. The proposed order provides notice of the exact orders requested, giving the parents (or other parties) a starting place to work out a plan without litigation. Developing a proposed order also helps counsel and client recognize what facts the decision-makers need to know to make their requested orders; thus, it provides an outline for developing the evidentiary presentation.

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