Parenting Plans: What to know to stay ahead

What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan is a legal document outlining each parent’s responsibilities and rights when raising their children. The plan is a form that your lawyer submits to Family Court, and while it can be overwhelming at first, the process helps you think through issues of custody that may arise. Ranging from visitation schedules to deciding extracurricular activities, the plan provides a clear path for raising children.

Plus, in many cases, it is illegal to not submit one.

Who needs to submit parenting plans to Family Court?

Georgia law requires that parenting plans must be submitted to Family Court in divorces where children are involved. While unmarried parents are not always required to have a court-approved plan, it might be necessary depending on what the parents would like. For example, a father of a child born out of wedlock may file for paternal legitimation to obtain parental rights.

Why do we need to submit plans?

Having a legitimate parent plan cuts down on confusion, stress and error in raising children. Think of the process like you are going on a trip with your family. With a parenting plan, you have a map of how to get to your destination safely.
Parenting plans provide consistency and structure—two key factors for raising healthy children.

How many parenting plans should I submit?

Family Court prefers that parents work together to submit an uncontested parenting plan, which is one plan both parents agree on. If they can’t agree on one, then each parent will need to submit a proposal for the court to rule on. However, before each party decides to submit separate plans, the first step is to try and reach an agreement using a third party. If this doesn’t work, the case will go to trial.

What rights and responsibilities are listed on the form?

Parents can seek sole or shared custody of each child involved. They can seek the authority to make decisions about each child’s education, extracurricular activities, health care, religious upbringing, visitation schedule and transportation. Your lawyer will help you navigate these topics along with others not listed here.

What does the Judge consider when making a ruling?

The Georgia Judicial Gateway (link to website) lists Georgia’s Legal Aid online as a resource for learning about Georgia’s courts. Our judicial system believes that it is in the best interest of children to have both parents involved in their lives unless a parent poses a threat to a child’s welfare. Family Court considers the following for each case.

  • The bonding and emotional ties that exist between each parent and the child
  • The length of time the child has lived in the current home and whether that environment is stable and satisfactory
  • The mental and physical health of each parent
  • Evidence of family violence, child abuse, substance abuse or criminal history of either parent
  • The ability of each parent to meet the educational needs of the child
  • The ability of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, and medical care
  • Each parent's involvement in the child's educational, social and extracurricular activities

What if I want to make changes to a parenting plan that is already approved?

If there are changes to an existing plan, then the parents will need to submit a new form to the judge with the modifications added for approval. Until the edited form is approved, the changes are not legal.

Can Grandparents submit a parenting plan if the parents don’t let them see their Grandchildren?

No. If a Grandparent is not able to visit with their Grandchildren, they will need to petition the
court to get a visitation order after all non-court options are exhausted. These options include talking with the parents to obtain visitation schedules or finding a third-party mediator to help find a solution.

What are the next steps to preparing a plan?

Nishit Patel of NVP Family Law has successfully written and submitted hundreds of parenting plans. NVP Family Law knows that preserving the children’s best interest is the main goal when working for clients. Whether it is working with the other party to write a plan or walking with you into trial to obtain your rights as a parent, Mr. Patel has the experience and intelligence to win. Call today to set up an appointment.

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