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The Essentials of a Great Parenting Plan - Part II


Without question, it is the most important document you will have in a divorce/ child custody action, yet so few people have a GOOD one. Surprisingly, some people don’t have one at all. I am talking about your PARENTING PLAN.

Whether incorporated directly into your Decree of Divorce/Custody, or filed independently as a Stipulated Parenting Agreement, it is the document that lays out your specific custodial orders and what you can – and should – expect from your co-parent in serving the best interests of your child(ren).

Last time, in part one, we talked about the importance of SPECIFICITY in Parenting Plans and the types of LEGAL custodial provisions that every Parenting Plan should include. This blog, part two of the series, will address the specific PHYSICAL custodial provisions that should NOT be left out of your Parenting Plan.

We will then be teed up for the third, and final, part of this blog series which will detail TEN ADDITIONAL “secret sauce” provisions that will make your Parenting Plan a thing of BEAUTY; a work of ART; a downright MASTERPIECE of Parenting Plan greatness (yeah, I have a flare for exaggeration and histrionics, but these are pretty damn good).

PART II: PHYSICAL CUSTODIAL PROVISIONS

As detailed last time, LEGAL CUSTODY refers to a parent’s right to access information about their children and that parent’s ability to make decisions about their children’s upbringing (specifically as to, medical; educational; and religious-based decisions about their child).

PHYSICAL CUSTODY, on the other hand, simply refers to the amount of time your children spend with each parent.

There are three types of physical custodial designations in Nevada:

. JOINT PHYSICAL CUSTODY:

Each parent has the child(ren) more than 40% of the time;

. PRIMARY PHYSICAL CUSTODY:

One parent has the child(ren) more than 60% of the time;

. SOLE PHYSICAL CUSTODY:

One parent has the child(ren) 100% of the time.

The State of Nevada has a statutory PREFERENCE (not a presumption, however) that JOINT PHYSICAL custody is in the best interest of minor children (see NRS 125C.0025). What can move the “needle” away from joint physical custody to primary physical (or sole physical) custody in a case? Several things can, but the biggest are issues relates to (1) child abuse/neglect; (2) domestic violence; (3) drug/alcohol addiction; (4) criminal behavior; and (5) mental health issues.

For the purpose of the examples below, let’s assume you have JOINT PHYSICAL custody of your child(ren) and that you need to define some specific physical custody parameters in your Parenting Plan.

You will want to address FOUR specific things in this part of your Parenting Plan:

. Regular Custodial Schedule

. Telephone/Facetime Schedule

. Vacation Plan

. Holiday Plan

REGULAR CUSTODIAL SCHEDULE

Your regular custodial schedule is – just that – the defined schedule that you agree to follow with your co-parent, as to the physical custody of your child(ren), each week. It should include FIVE things:

(1) The days/times that each parent will have custody of the child(ren);

(2) The days/times that custodial exchanges will take place;

(3) Where exchanges will take place;

(4) Which parent will be in charge of transporting the child(ren); and

(5) The designated start date of your schedule (for enforceability reasons, if necessary down the road).

Keeping in mind that SPECIFICITY is key, here is what a typical 2-2-3 joint physical custody schedule looks like on paper (I’ll use the name Madison for the child):

DAD shall have physical custody of Madison MONDAY after-school (or at 3:00 p.m., if Madison is not in school for any reason) through WEDNESDAY after-school (or at 3:00 p.m., if Madison is not in school) every week;

MOM shall have physical custody of Madison WEDNESDAY after-school (or at 3:00 p.m., if Madison is not in school for any reason) through FRIDAY after-school (or at 3:00 p.m., if Madison is not in school) every week;

The parties shall ALTERNATE having custody of Madison on WEEKENDS; which shall begin FRIDAY after-school (or at 3:00 p.m., if Madison is not in school for any reason) through MONDAY after-school (or at 3:00 p.m., if Madison is not in school).

Said alternating weekend visitation shall commence with DAD having Madison the weekend of September 4, 2020; MOM will then have Madison the following weekend, commencing on September 11, 2020; and so on, as the parties continue to alternate weekends.

Custodial EXCHANGES are meant to take place at Madison’s school whenever possible; with one parent dropping-off Madison at school (for the conclusion of that parent’s custodial period); and with the other parent picking-up Madison from school (for the start of the parent’s custodial period).

However, if Madison is not in school – for any reason – on a custodial exchange day, the parties agree that the SENDING parent will drop-off Madison at the RECEIVING parent’s residence (or other mutually agreed-upon location). The SENDING parent is responsible for transportation and transportation costs related to said custodial exchanges.

TELEPHONE/FACETIME SCHEDULE

Sometimes parents forget to include language in their Parenting Plan as to what kind of telephone/electronic contact each parent should be entitled to do when the child(ren) are with the other parent. This means contact on the phone and/or via video conferencing (Facetime, Skype, whatever).

Some parents don’t like this type of provision at all, while others want daily contact when their children are with the other parent. It’s entirely up to you and your co-parent; but, the language needs to be very SPECIFIC (not to sound like a broken record) or you could be setting yourselves up for INCESSANT calls and multiple disturbances and interruptions during your custodial time. It can easily become a BIG problem if not written up the right way.

Here’s an example of what the provision should look like in a Parenting Plan (with parents exercising a week-on/week-off joint physical custody schedule):

During a parent’s non-custodial week, that parent shall be entitled to telephone contact (or electronic contact via Facetime, Skype, or other videoconferencing application) with the minor child on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday between 6:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

The custodial parent shall be responsible for initiating the call to the non-custodial parent. If the non-custodial parent doesn’t answer; and then fails to return the call prior to 7:00 p.m., then the call is deemed forfeited and the custodial parent has no obligation to accommodate a make-up call.

If the custodial parent needs to move the time of the call, based on plans or activities affecting the minor child’s availability, then the custodial parent shall notify the non-custodial parent in writing offering two other times to accommodate the call that day.

VACATION PLAN

Most Parenting Plans include provisions about how much vacation time each parent is allowed to exercise with the child(ren) and protocols how vacation notice must be provided. Two weeks of vacation time is normal; but, again, it’s entirely up to you and your co-parent (I’ve drafted plans with no vacation time allotted at all and I’ve drafted plans with 60-days allotted; both scenarios are asking for trouble, in my opinion, but it’s what the parents wanted).

Here’s what a tight vacation provision looks like in a good Parenting Plan:

The parents agree that they shall each be entitled to two (2) weeks of Summer Vacation time with Madison each year. In EVEN-NUMBERED years, DAD shall have the right to designate his vacation time with Madison first. In ODD-NUMBERED years, MOM shall have the right to designate her vacation time with Madison first.

If the parent that has the right to select their vacation period first does not notify the other parent of their Summer Vacation dates, via email, by May 1st, the other parent may select their Summer Vacation dates first (starting on May 2nd). In the event of a potential conflict, in this regard, the earlier email shall prevail as to the parent who made the earlier plans.

Each party shall be allowed to take Madison out of Nevada for said vacation time. Pursuant to the joint legal custodial provisions set forth herein, the other parent must be provided with a travel itinerary and a telephone number where the minor children may be reached during said vacation time. It is not mandatory that said vacation time be exercised; and any unused vacation time is waived and shall not carry over to the following year.”

Also, be sure to include language indicating that VACATION TIME supersedes (or overrides) the REGULAR custodial schedule; but, does not supersede HOLIDAY TIME.

HOLIDAY PLAN

Regardless of your religious beliefs or what special days you celebrate (or don’t celebrate), holiday time with your children is of utmost importance to all parents. This is a part of your Parenting Plan that you should really spend a lot of time on and think through. The last thing you need on special days (that are meant to be enjoyed with family, free of stress and worry) is CONFLICT cause by a poorly-defined HOLIDAY PLAN.

My first suggestion regarding holidays is to use the same exchange time for ALL holidays (just trust me on this, I’ve learned the hard way); my second suggestion is to make it clear that MOM always gets Mother’s Day and that DAD always gets Father’s Day; and my third suggestion is to make it clear that MOM always gets HER birthday with the child(ren) every year and that DAD always gets HIS birthday with the child(ren) each year. Then, you can deal with the others.

Here’s what a good HOLIDAY PLAN looks like on paper (again, with Madison as our star child and with basic holidays being celebrated):

The parties agree that the following holiday schedule will take precedence over the regular custodial schedule (and over any noticed vacation time).

THREE-DAY HOLIDAY WEEKENDS:

The parents agree that all Three-Day Holiday Weekends will begin on the day PRECEDING the holiday weekend when school RECESSES (or at 3:00 p.m. if Madison is not in school for any reason) and continue until the day FOLLOWING the holiday weekend when school RESUMES (or at 3:00 p.m. that day if Madison is not in school).

The parents agree that they will share the following THREE DAY HOLIDAY WEEKENDS as follows:

. MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY WEEKEND:

DAD shall have Madison for Martin Luther King Day Weekend in EVEN-NUMBERED years; and MOM shall have Madison for Martin Luther King Day Weekend in ODD-NUMBERED years.

. PRESIDENTS’ DAY WEEKEND:

MOM shall have Madison for Presidents’ Day Weekend in EVEN-NUMBERED years; and DAD shall have Madison for Presidents’ Day Weekend in ODD-NUMBERED years.

. MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND:

DAD shall have Madison for Memorial Day Weekend in EVEN-NUMBERED years; and MOM shall have Madison for Memorial Day Weekend in ODD-NUMBERED years.

. LABOR DAY WEEKEND:

MOM shall have Madison for Labor Day Weekend in EVEN-NUMBERED years; and DAD shall have Madison for Labor Day Weekend in ODD-NUMBERED years.

. NEVADA ADMISSIONS DAY WEEKEND:

DAD shall have Madison for Nevada Admissions Day Weekend in EVEN-NUMBERED years; and MOM shall have Madison for Nevada Admissions Day Weekend in ODD-NUMBERED years.

MADISON’S BIRTHDAY:

The parents agree that Madison’s Birthday shall be defined as beginning at 9:00 a.m. on June 18th of each year and concluding the following day (June 19th) at 9:00 a.m. DAD shall have Madison on her birthday in EVEN-NUMBERED years; and MOM shall have Madison on her birthday in ODD-NUMBERED years.

DAD AND MOM’S BIRTHDAYS:

The parents agree that their respective birthdays shall be defined as beginning at 9:00 a.m. on their birthday each year and concluding the following day at 9:00 a.m. DAD shall have Madison on HIS birthday each year; and MOM shall have Madison on HER birthday each year.

MOTHER’S DAY AND FATHER’S DAY:

The parents agree that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day shall be defined as beginning at 9:00 a.m. on Mother’s/Father’s Day and concluding the following day at 9:00 a.m. MOM shall have Madison on Mother’s Day each year; and DAD shall have Madison on Father’s Day each year.

THANKSGIVING BREAK:

The parents agree that Thanksgiving Break shall be defined as beginning the day school RECESSES for Thanksgiving Break (or at 3:00 p.m. that day if Madison is not in school for any reason) and concluding the following Monday when school RESUMES (or at 3:00 p.m. that Monday if Madison is not in school for any reason). DAD shall have Madison for Thanksgiving Break in EVEN-NUMBERED years; and MOM shall have Madison for Thanksgiving Break in ODD-NUMBERED years.

CHRISTMAS/WINTER BREAK:

The parents agree that Christmas/Winter Break shall be divided into two segments. The FIRST segment shall begin the day school RECESSES for break (or at 3:00 p.m. if Madison is not in school for any reason) and shall conclude December 26th at 9:00 a.m.; the SECOND segment shall begin on December 26th at 9:00 a.m. and shall conclude the day school RESUMES from break (or at 3:00 p.m. that day if Madison is not in school).

In EVEN-NUMBERED years, MOM shall have Madison for the FIRST segment of Christmas/Winter Break; and DAD shall have Madison for the SECOND segment. In ODD-NUMBERED years, DAD will have Madison for the FIRST segment of Christmas/Winter Break; and MOM will have Madison for the SECOND segment.

SPRING/EASTER BREAK:

The parents agree that Spring/Easter Break shall be defined as beginning the day school RECESSES for Spring/Easter Break (or at 3:00 p.m. that day if Madison is not in school for any reason) and concluding the following Monday when school RESUMES (or at 3:00 p.m. that Monday if Madison is not in school). DAD shall have Madison for Spring/ Easter Break in EVEN-NUMBERED years; and MOM shall have Madison for Spring/Easter Break in ODD-NUMBERED years.

The parties agree that any other holidays and vacations each year shall be decided between the parties, in writing. If no written agreement is reached, then the parties’ regular custodial schedule shall control.

Again, be sure to include language indicating that HOLIDAY TIME supersedes (or overrides) VACATION TIME and the REGULAR custodial schedule.

...

NEXT UP:

In a couple weeks, I will post the third, and final, part of this blog series which will detail TEN ADDITIONAL “secret sauce” provisions that will make your Parenting Plan a thing of BEAUTY; a work of ART; a MASTERPIECE of Parenting Plan greatness!! Yeah, I said it, you heard me. ;)

If you missed PART ONE of the series, click HERE.

See ya’ next time,

- Mark

Mark DiCiero is the owner and founder of Pro Se PROS.You can contact Mark directly at 702.743.3338 or at mark@prosepros.net.

 

702.743.3338

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Las Vegas, NV 89101

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