Three tips for a successful parenting plan in Massachusetts

Parents going through a divorce in Massachusetts can choose to put together their own parenting plan, as opposed to having the court put one together for them. This allows the parents to have more control over the plan, structuring it to meet their unique needs.

Parents that choose to develop their own parenting plan can increase the odds of putting together a successful plan by following these tips:

  • Child focused. Make sure the plan is focused on the children. It should be designed to help ease the transition into the separation as smoothly as possible. Take the attributes of each child into consideration. This should include the age and temperament of the child as well as the child’s daily schedule and special needs, if applicable. The Model Parenting Plans, published by Mass.gov and put together by a task force of judges, lawyers, probation officers and mental health professionals, provides some guidance. For example, they note that plans involving infants are often more successful for the child when they focus on short, frequent visits as opposed to occasional, long visits. Conversely, plans involving adolescents are generally more successful when they allow for a longer period of time at each home.
  • Particulars. Include specifics about daily scheduling plans. Outline what each parent will be responsible for. This should include things like: pick up and drop off duties for school and extracurricular activities, which parent will be responsible if the child is ill and needs to leave school, how medical decisions will be made, how vacations will be handled and how financial responsibilities will be divided. These commitments to the child need to be balanced with each parent’s professional obligations as well.
  • Look forward. Outline how responsibilities will be split between the parents in the present and the future. It can be helpful to touch on how time will be split during different stages of the child’s life. This can also include a portion addressing how disputes over the plan will be handled. Although it is possible to modify an agreement after an original is approved, it can be difficult.

It is important to note that the court is not required to accept the proposed plan. The court can choose to make adjustments, if it deems these adjustments are in the best interest of the child. As a result, it is wise for those who are interested in a shared parenting plan to seek the counsel of an experienced divorce and family law lawyer. This legal professional can help you tailor a plan to meet your needs, better ensuring success.