Kathleen J. Smith, Attorney at Law

Productive and peaceful parenting plans are possible

Sonoma County couples who separate and divorce often have children. Those children are not at fault for their parents' issues, and shouldn't have to pay the price for them.

For that reason, the most important thing about separation and divorce is making sure that the children get to maintain full relationships with both of their parents, as long as neither parent is unfit. One key aspect of maintaining those relationships is establishing a schedule for parenting time.

In California, a schedule for parenting time is established as part of an overall parenting plan. The term }parenting plan" is now more frequently used than the term it replaced -- "custody and visitation agreement."

Parenting plans cover, in addition to the parenting schedule, designations about decision-making for the children in regard to issues like education and health care

A well-written parenting plan can give children emotional security and a sense of stability. It can let them know that they have a reliable routine and can count on consistent relationships with their parents.

A parenting plan will need to be signed by the parents and a judge and then filed with the court. The children's schedule should take into account basic things, like getting enough sleep, good medical care and a healthy diet across households.

It should also ensure that the children know they are loved and protected by both parents. When parents have consistent behavior expectations, that will give the children a sense of stability. All of that can be written into the parenting plan with hhe help of an experienced attorney.

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