Nearly everyone has heard—or said—the words, “If you two can’t play nicely, I’ll come in there and decide who gets to play at all.” Usually the person saying that is a parent attempting to bring order to squabbling siblings. In a Virginia court, though, a judge could very well be saying that (or an equivalent) to two squabbling parents in a divorce proceeding. A parenting plan outlines custody, visitation, and expenses for children in a divorce. The parenting plan is sometimes created by the clients, or can be a court-issued document that takes over for the parents and orders them to play nicely.
A Parenting Plan Can Help Reduce Friction by Balancing Power
A Virginia divorce should not be about power struggles, but often such struggles emerge from the bitterness and anguish over dissolving a marriage. If your wife fights you on every issue heading into the divorce, you can anticipate clashes over custody and more:
- Physical custody
- Legal custody
- Child support
- Spousal support
The parenting plan is not mandatory in Virginia, but it can be an effective way to reduce tension and friction. Since many of the topics covered by the parenting plan are sources of conflict, many parenting plans include sections on how conflicts and disputes will be resolved. It helps to balance power between you and your spouse.
What is in a Parenting Plan?
A good lawyer will work with you to protect your rights and gain some privileges when putting together a parenting plan. Suppose you always took your children to Virginia Beach’s wonderful, whimsical board walk every summer. You may consider such a vacation a priority and be willing to forfeit Christmas and New Year’s Eve to have them for two weeks in summer. That kind of detail can go into the parenting plan.
- Which parent has legal custody, and what specific legal issues the other parent will be advised about or consulted on (religion, medical treatment, education, recreation, gift purchases, etc.)
- Which parent has physical custody (thus setting up the need for visitation with the other parent)
- Transportation costs for visitation
- A physical location where children will move from one parent’s supervision to the other
- Dividing major holidays and vacations equitably
- Weekend visitation hours
- Proper notification of changes, delays, or physical moves (a child is at a friend’s house unexpectedly, for example)
- Right of first refusal (if a parent while having custody cannot care for your kids, the other parent is the first one called to take them)
- College funding
- Conflict resolution
- Communication between parents
- Communication between non-custodial parent and children
Can’t Resolve Your Issues? Prepare for a Court-decreed Plan!
While it does make the divorce process smoother, a parent-generated parenting plan is an option. The judge can, invoke Virginia Title 20 Chapter 6.1, § 20-124.2, Court-ordered custody and visitation arrangements, among others. In doing so, the judge, by law, must consider only the needs and interests of the children in setting up such a plan.
Bear in mind the court-decreed plan is only necessary if the parents and their lawyers cannot resolve issues on their own. This means your best interests (and those of your children) are best preserved by working and—perhaps—compromising with your spouse to present a workable remedy for any issues before going before the judge.
Unfortunately every divorce attorney in Virginia has been in the unenviable position of hearing the judge say to both parties, in essence, “Now kids, if you can’t work this out yourselves, I’ll work it out for you.” This robs attorneys of some of their abilities to do the best possible job for you, their clients.
Yes, Virginia, There is a Plan … Open Communication.
The best type of divorce is an uncontested one, in which both parties realize the marriage was a mistake. Neither seeks retribution or misery upon the other. Both parents work in the best interests of their children. The next-best divorce is one that includes a mutually agreeable parenting plan. The worst kind of divorce, not just from the children’s perspective, is a contested divorce with a court-ordered parenting plan.
Your attorney will encourage you to work with your spouse and her lawyer to reach a parenting plan. This way, when the Virginia court judge asks, your attorney and hers can both stand up and say, “Yes, your honor, there is a parenting plan that both sides are happy to follow. It includes everything from visitation to support and we look forward to a ruling favorable to the children who issued from this marriage.”
Protect Your Rights and Your Sanity! Contact a Family Law Firm for Men Only!
Even if you and your spouse have agreed to part amicably, you still need a good lawyer familiar with Virginia’s laws to help guide you through the divorce process. Contact The Firm for Men or call our office at 757-383-9184. We can connect you with a Virginia Beach divorce lawyer familiar with parenting plans and protecting your rights.