Important provisions to include in all parenting plans
Much to most peoples surprise, family law lawyers actually write most of their Settlement Agreements from scratch. Sure, I have a template that I use so that I do not miss any key provisions, but the details are created solely by me. Here 5 topics that should be included in all agreements to avoid problems.
Which parent provides transportation to and from visitation? Believe it or not, without clear instructions, this can cause a standoff! My rule of thumb is that, absent an agreement to the contrary, the person picking up the children from visitation is responsible for transportation. That way people are usually going to be on time.
Who gets to make “major decisions” for the children? In Family Court, only two decisions are required to have a parental decision maker: Major medical decisions and major educational decisions. Should a child have elective surgery, should a child switch High School curriculums from AP to IB? These decisions can be made by solely by one parent, or they can be divided between them. I never leave this decision up to a third party like a mediator or arbitrator; it is the parents responsibility and the court will require a “tie breaker”.
What about parenting time during the summer? Many people either continue the regular school year schedule during the summer, or go to alternating weeks. A key component is travel time for holidays. Regardless of the summer schedule, I usually include for both parents one or two weeks for travel outside of the state to see relatives, go to Disney World, etc..If it is a two week holiday I will usually make it consecutive.
Exchange of Financial Information: Child and spousal support is always modifiable upon a change in circumstances. But unlike being married, it is not possible, absent consent or court order, for one divorced person obtain income information from the other. I generally include a provision requiring disclosure of income on a regular basis, yearly, every other year, etc. This way disclosure is automatic and may streamline a modification request.
Child Tax credit: As congress modifies the tax code to benefit people with kids, it is always important to include language indicating which party is entitled to those benefits, as well as other advantages that may arise in the future. Sometimes people alternate claiming these benefits or, more commonly, they go with the parent who has a majority of the parenting time.