In this blog, we will provide a brief introduction to what parenting plans are and what they include. We will then discuss provisions parents should consider including in their parenting plan that are often overlooked.
A General Overview of MO Parenting Plans
Parenting plans are crucial documents that guide parents on how to continue raising their children after separation or divorce. In Missouri, the law requires a parenting plan for all cases involving child custody. This article aims to provide an insightful guide to help parents understand what a parenting plan is and how to develop one in line with Missouri's guidelines.
Why are Parenting Plans Important?
A parenting plan outlines the responsibilities of each parent and sets rules for how they will share time and decision-making authority over their children. It provides a clear framework to avoid conflicts and ensures the child's best interests are prioritized.
Key Elements of a Missouri Parenting Plan
A comprehensive parenting plan in Missouri should include:
- Custody arrangement. This section specifies whether parents will have joint or sole custody. It details exactly how parents share rights and responsibilities for their children.
- Visitation schedule. The plan should define a regular visitation schedule, including holidays and vacations. Missouri encourages equal parenting time and fostering a relationship between the child and both parents.
- Decision-making authority. The plan should specify who has the authority to make decisions about the child’s education, health care, religious upbringing, and other important matters. Be sure to specify who has authority or a say in minor, major, and emergency situations.
Creating & Modifying a Parenting Plan in Missouri
Missouri law requires parents to file a parenting plan with the court—either jointly or individually—within 30 days after filing a motion or petition involving custody. Parents can use the standard form provided by the court or create a custom plan. To modify an existing plan, a parent must show the court that there has been a substantial change in circumstances and that the modification would be in the child's best interests.
Considerations When Drafting a Parenting Plan
When drafting a plan, it's important to consider:
- The child's age, needs, and preferences
- Each parent's ability to meet the child's needs
- The child's relationship with each parent
- Each parent’s ability to cooperate and communicate effectively
To learn more about considerations when creating a parenting plan, read our blog, “Tips for Developing a Parenting Plan in Missouri.”
Including Your Own Provisions
Parenting after a separation or divorce can be complex. It requires a well-thought-out parenting plan to navigate the logistical and emotional challenges that come with co-parenting. As we mentioned, this document covers everything from where the children will live and visitation schedules to how decisions about the children will be made. However, there are essential provisions that parents can add to their agreements, often overlooked by parents, that can lead to conflicts down the line.
Parenting Plan Provision Examples
Here are some examples of provisions you might consider incorporating into your parenting plan:
Children can be significantly affected by how their parents talk about each other. Negative comments can create confusion, guilt, and stress for the child. As such, a provision prohibiting badmouthing should be included in the parenting plan. This clause ensures both parents commit to refraining from speaking ill of each other, especially in the presence of the child.
Disallowing Unilateral Decisions About Changing Your Child's Appearance
Decisions about a child's appearance, like haircuts or piercings, can become contentious. To prevent disputes, it's crucial to include a provision that disallows unilateral decisions regarding a child's appearance. This clause ensures both parents have an equal say in decisions about their child's physical appearance, fostering a sense of respect and cooperation.
Specifying Allowed Caregivers
In some situations, parents may not want certain individuals around their children. Therefore, it's important to specify who is allowed to care for the children alone and under what circumstances. This provision should clarify if grandparents, new partners, or babysitters are acceptable caregivers and when they can be alone with the children.
Healthy and effective communication is vital in co-parenting. Communication provisions outline the format (email, text message, phone calls) and frequency of communication between the co-parents and their children. This includes when and how parents will update each other about the child's welfare, school progress, health issues, and more.
While it's impossible to anticipate every possible scenario that might arise in co-parenting, including these overlooked provisions can provide a more comprehensive and effective parenting plan. It's always recommended to work with a family law attorney or mediator who can help identify individual needs and incorporate them into the parenting plan. Remember, the ultimate goal is to create a stable, supportive environment for your children, and a well-structured parenting plan is an essential step in achieving that.
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