Creating a successful and effective parenting plan in Massachusetts is essential. Not only will it protect your rights, the health and well-being of your children, it is going to save you untold frustration and difficulty. Developing a parenting plan that complies with Massachusetts law is an important part of your divorce. Many times, a parenting plan can be negotiated and agreed to by the parties but when it can’t, your lawyer can ask the judge to enter your proposed plan as a judgment of the Court.
When you have children and are getting divorced, should have an experienced Massachusetts child custody attorney at your side to protect both you and your children’s rights. You do not have to face this difficult time alone.
Developing a Proposed Parenting Plan
Developing a parenting plan requires communication with your attorney, and negotiation with your soon to be former spouse and their lawyer. Positive collaboration between the parties in a is almost always the most effective and efficient approach to develop a plan that everyone can live with. A plan that everyone can agree to saves both sides the cost of litigating the issue, and the incredible headache that can result from a plan the other spouse refuses to stick to.
A parenting plan ensures that all parties understand the expectations involved with:
- parenting responsibilities,
- transportation, and
- aspects of the children’s lives.
With the help of an experienced Massachusetts divorce lawyer, you can develop a parenting plan that will work for you and your family.
When Parents Cannot Agree
Sometimes, parents cannot agree to a parenting plan. When this is the case, it will ultimately be up to the court to determine what is in the best interests of the children. The judge will focus on what is in the children’s best interest, not what is convenient for either of the parents.
A judge can consider certain factors when determining what parenting plan to adopt, including, but not limited to:
- the relationship with the parents and the children
- if the child has special needs
- the child’s wishes and desires, if the child is old enough
- whether a particular aspect of the plan is what is best for the child
- convenience of the parties
- When parents cannot agree, the use of an experienced Pennsylvania divorce lawyer is essential to getting a plan in front of the judge that protects the interests of you and your children.
Contents of a Massachusetts Parenting Plan
When parents are applying for joint custody especially, most Massachusetts courts require parenting plans to be submitted. This can be a negotiated and stipulated agreement, or if the parties cannot agree, each party’s suggested parenting plan.
A parenting plan can include, but is not limited to:
- childcare guidelines and details
- child custody determinations
- legal custody issues
- physical custody issues
- child support
- schedule for custody, visitation, and care of the children
- transportation arrangements, including pick-ups from school or to after-school activities
- transfer of custody times and locations
- holiday and vacation schedules
- education details
- religious involvement details, if any
- a procedure to resolve disputes that arise in the future
- healthcare decisions and how costs are split
- communication between the parties
It might seem like overkill, but putting as many details as necessary into the parenting plan helps to save you from a future legal battle over minor details. It can even resolve what could otherwise be major and costly legal battles, not to mention the amount of time and energy wasted battling with your former spouse (or soon to be former spouse).
Does the Court Require a Parenting Plan?
Under Massachusetts law, a judge may require the parties to submit a parenting plan, but is not required to do so. However, most judges do require the submission of a parenting plan as part of the divorce proceedings if there are children involved. Parenting plans help the judge to understand what the best interests of the children are, and how they will be protected by the proposed plan.
Mediation as Means of Negotiating Your Parenting Plan
Mediation is often an effective way to negotiate a parenting plan. Mediation involves the use of a neutral third party who comes in and sits with each of the parties both separate and together to achieve a mutually agreed upon agreement. The mediator will speak with both parties to figure out where common ground exists, and help them work out an agreement based upon that common ground.
An effective mediator can also help to resolve many areas where an agreement was not thought possible. The mediator can work with you and your attorney to address each of your concerns and effectively communicate those concerns with the other parent. With healthy negotiation, much if not all of the parenting plan can be agreed upon. This can save time, money, and frustration because there is none (or much less) court involvement.
Consult a Massachusetts Divorce Lawyer
Parenting plans are an incredibly important part of any Massachusetts divorce involving children. It is also very important to your post-divorce life and how you will move on after your divorce is finalized. It will protect the rights and best interests of your children, as well as your own. It is always better to understand the responsibilities of each of the parties, as well as to create a process through which disagreements can be handled without having to go to court.
At Wright Family Law Group, we specialize in negotiating parenting plans will skill and diplomacy. When parenting plans cannot be agreed upon, we have the experience to effectively advocate for your parenting plan proposal to the Court successfully. We strive to inform and protect you, giving you options during stressful times. Contact us today at 978-851-2291 to schedule your consultation at either or Danvers or Tewksbury offices.