If you are involved in a child custody or visitation case, you and the other party must submit a parenting plan (Missouri Revised Statute § 452.310). You can either each submit your own parenting plan or submit a jointly drafted parenting plan together for the court to review. In Missouri, parenting plans have four primary sections:
- Custody & Visitation
- Decision-Making Rights & Responsibilities
- Dispute Resolution
- Childcare Expenses
In this article, we will outline important considerations and questions you should ask yourself as you complete each section of your parenting plan. Please be advised that this article does not replace an attorney’s counsel as they can provide more individualized suggestions concerning your case. An attorney can also help you work out the details of the arrangement with the other party if you want to file a plan together.
Custody & Visitation
This section of the plan will include details concerning physical and legal custody. You will need to determine whether you will have sole or joint physical custody and sole or joint legal custody of your child. While legal custody involves who makes decisions concerning your child’s education, health and medical wellness, and welfare, physical custody refers to the parent with whom the child will reside.
When completing this section, you should consider asking yourself the following questions.
- What are both parents’ current responsibilities? By reviewing each parent’s responsibilities concerning childcare up to this point, you can better determine whether sole or joint physical and legal custody is best. However, in answering this question, you can also decide where you would like to be more involved.
- What type of custody schedule will work best for your family? There are many types of custody schedules, such as the 2-2-3, 2-2-5, 70-30, or week-on and week-off plan. Depending on your child’s age, your child’s best interests, and certain practicalities (like each parent’s work schedule, etc.), a certain plan may work better for you. Research the different types of schedules for co-parenting and consider which will work best for you going forward.
- When and where will we do custody exchanges? If you plan to share physical custody or have summer visits, you should consider when and where the exchange will take place. Do you want to meet somewhere in the middle or should the parent doing the pick-up come to the other party’s house?
- Which parent will be responsible for driving your child to and from drop-offs? Depending on your specific situation, one parent may do the pick-ups and drop-offs, or you may alternate. Consider each parent’s ability to do exchanges (like do they have a vehicle or access to transportation) as well as the location of the drop-off.
- What holidays does your family observe? Your parenting plan will need to include details concerning which parent will get your child on specific holidays during even and odd years. While many holidays are already included, you should also consider whether you will need to write in any holidays like Easter, Grandparent’s Day, Eid, etc.
- How should we divide school breaks? Your child likely gets winter, spring, and summer break. Some schools also have a fall break. You will need to divide how these vacations will be divided. For instance, will Parent A get Children A and B every even year from the start to the end of the break, or will Parent A and B each get half of the break with Child A and B every year?
- How will we handle commitment changes? If either party wants to change the exchange time or has a commitment change or request, you should outline when they should ask the other parent for the change (i.e. within a week or 48 hours) and when the other parent should respond by. You should also include details about how this request should be communicated; will you use a co-parenting app or are text and email okay?
Decision-Making Rights & Responsibilities
In this section, you will need to outline which parent can make decisions concerning your child’s education, medical treatment, dental treatment, extracurriculars, religious influence, and more. If you do not plan to share in the responsibility for a specific category, you will need to explain why only one parent has this responsibility as the court encourages parents to try to share in the decision-making process.
In completing this section, you should ask yourself (or each other if you’re working together):
- How will these decisions be made? If you share responsibilities, will you need to talk out decisions and how long will you discuss issues? If you do not share responsibilities, will you still consult with the other parent to get their opinion?
- Will we share information concerning decisions and how? Many co-parents use apps to update one another and keep records of decisions and information concerning their child. If you do not use an app, how do you plan to share information or updates with one another (regardless of whether you share decision-making responsibilities)?
- Will we allow a parent to make decisions concerning our child that affect the other parent’s scheduled parenting time? If you both are allowed to make decisions concerning extracurricular activities or religion, you should outline whether you can schedule something if the event or activity falls into the time that the other parent has physical custody.
If you and the other party disagree concerning the parenting plan or certain aspects of the plan, you will need to submit to counseling, mediation, or an alternative dispute resolution process. Consider which parent will cover the costs of this process and which resolution process will work best for you both. You can also opt to allow the court to handle your disagreements if it is within their purview. However, you then lose a bit of autonomy and leave an important decision in the court’s hands.
It’s no secret that raising a child can be expensive. On average, it costs $233,610 to raise a child from birth to age 17. In the last part of your parenting plan, you will need to outline whether either parent will pay child support and how you will divide paying expenses, including but not limited:
- Health insurance coverage
- Medical bills/expenses
- Educational costs
- Additional expenses, such as car insurance, extracurricular fees, lessons, etc.
In completing this final section, you should consider:
- Each party’s income. You should consider each party’s income as you decide whether child support is needed and the percentage of costs that each parent will be responsible for.
- Your child’s specific needs. Every child is different and has different needs. Consider what needs your child has to best determine what expenses you should plan for. For instance, a high school-aged child may need SAT courses or driving lessons; while another child their age only needs sports equipment and team dues.
Contact Our Firm Today
At Kallen Law Firm, LLC, our team has over 45 years of collective experience. Our attorneys are dedicated to helping our clients successfully and smoothly navigate their legal matters. We have represented thousands and clients and are equipped to help you protect your parental rights, understand your legal options, and develop a parenting plan that works best for your family.
To learn more about how we can help you, schedule a free initial case consultation today by calling (314) 441-7793 or reaching out to us online.