Our Minneapolis child custody attorneys guide clients through the full range of divorce issues, but we agree with the Minnesota courts that nothing is more important than the well being of the children before, during and after divorce.
While divorce naturally involves some degree of dispute, the children fare better when parents can reach their own agreement on issues about their children. Working together to develop a parenting plan can help parents reach this important goal.
The Required Elements of a Parenting Plan
The development of a parenting plan is not legally required in Minnesota, but parents who do not want to leave vital decisions in the hands of the court can develop their own plans as long as they both agree to take this approach (and the court approves the plan).
Since every family has its own unique circumstances, parenting plans provide the flexibility to address a wide array of situations, but the Minnesota statutes require that they all contain the following elements:
- Parenting time: The plan must include a schedule of the time each parent spends with the children regardless of division of custody. Good plans consider every imaginable situation, such as weekdays and weekends, holidays, seasonal vacations from school and even special family occasions, including birthdays.
- Decision-making responsibilities: The final divorce decree assigns legal custody, which essentially identifies who has decision-making responsibilities on important issues. However, not all decisions carry the same importance in a child’s life. The parenting plan must look at everything from emergency medical decisions to deciding whether a child can stay at a friend’s house overnight. While it does not have to list every possibility, it does need to provide guidelines that make the responsibilities clear.
- Dispute resolution: Lives seldom remain consistent and disputes are bound to arise periodically. Since it is not feasible to run to the courts to settle relatively minor disagreements, the parenting plan must provide a plan for addressing them. As long as the courts see the dispute resolution plan as an effective one, parents can agree to designate anyone from a neutral friend to a mediator to settle these issues. Major issues, such as changes in physical or legal custody, should still go to court.
A Cooperative Spirit Helps the Children
Naturally, highly-contentious divorces may not lend themselves to successful negotiation, but parents who can work together to develop a parenting plan can significantly reduce the stress for children during the divorce process. Additionally, the flexibility of parenting plans helps normalize life for the children after the divorce.
Our Minneapolis child custody lawyers have extensive experience guiding parents toward effective parenting plans — even when parents cannot initially imagine ever reaching agreement. Call us at (763) 783-5146 or use our convenient contact form to learn how we can help.