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Model Parenting Plan (Georgia, USA, 2008)

In all cases involving permanent custody or custody modification (except when a parent seeks emergency relief for family violence), each parent shall prepare a parenting plan, or the parties may jointly submit a parenting plan.

NB: This example is American and does not literally apply in Australia and should NOT be quoted or used literally in Australian family law courts.  Instead, the usefulness of this information lies in its coverage of examples and listing of matters - the issues and the elements - to consider when drafting an Australian parenting plan or court orders. Additionally, some phrases and sentences may suggest useful wordings that could be integrated into an Australian plan or orders.


What follows are articles about changes to child custody laws for 2008 in Georgia, USA … followed by a model parenting plan and notes on developing a parenting plan, which may provide ideas for you when developing your own parenting plan (or assisting others).
Yet the biggest changes will be the new "parenting plan" requirements. [See below.] They are designed to be an "accounting" setting forth the precise specifics, in almost mind-boggling detail, for custody rights, responsibilities, and visitation. They are new to Georgia but have been used for years in many other states.
Speaking as a family law attorney, I am not looking forward to parenting plans.
Wow!  An honest lawyer!

And of course he's not looking forward to parenting plans: people working out their own issues, without lawyers, might reduce his lawyer's income/profits.

Houston Home Journal (Houston County, Georgia)
30 December 2007

New Year signals start of new child custody rules
By James Rockefeller

Dear Readers, When the New Year rolls around, significant new rules for child custody cases will apply to new filings. This comes on the heels of major recent child support changes, with which we are all still struggling! Some of what has been enacted is helpful, but the parenting plans are a nightmare.

Changes to child elections of custody have been long overdue. Currently, a child who turns 11 years old has the right to talk to a judge about custody; once the child turns 14 years old, the child has virtually an unfettered and absolute right to choose between the parents.

And, the mere fact of a child reaching these ages can be a triggering "change of circumstances" permitting a switch in physical custody.

I have often used a child-election for the benefit of my clients, but I hated doing so. Why? First, it puts the child smack-dab in the middle of a custody fight. Second, you can have situations with a child flipping back and forth on custody, depending on which parent is the most generous, the most lenient, or with whom the child is not angry. Giving a teenager this type of absolute authority is just a recipe for disaster.

The new law fixes the "flip-flop" potential created by the election rights. No longer will the mere fact of a child turning 11 be a basis for a change in physical custody; though a child turning 14 may still trigger such a change. Even so, a 14-year-old will have a "presumptive" right of election, to be honored only if a judge determines the selection is in the child's "best interests."

Moreover, this selection can be made only once every two years. Thus, the indiscriminate veto power a 14-year-old has been able to wield will soon be eliminated.

Yet the biggest changes will be the new "parenting plan" requirements. They are designed to be an "accounting" setting forth the precise specifics, in almost mind-boggling detail, for custody rights, responsibilities, and visitation. They are new to Georgia but have been used for years in many other states. My understanding is that our judges are trying to come up with a format to comply with the law, but the draft form is already 10 pages long!

Speaking as a family law attorney, I am not looking forward to parenting plans. As a practical matter, I do not envy our judges when dealing with unsophisticated "pro se" litigants. Between worksheets and parenting plans, it will be virtually impossible for attorneys to quote "simple" low-cost divorce fees for less fortunate families; custody agreements will be a drafting hassle. Things will be particularly tricky when the parties cannot agree, with each party submitting their own plan and a judge trying to choose between the competing terms.

Custody hearings may also have to change. Currently, a judge decides both custody and visitation simultaneously. However, if both parties are required to submit detailed visitation plans, I'm not sure how a judge can rule on everything in a single hearing  first you decide custody, then you consider parenting plans.

As you can see, some of what the legislature has done is a welcome change; parenting plans, however, may prove to be quite the headache! It is a shame there are not more lawyers serving in Atlanta to think through these consequences. Georgia citizens with children will soon be paying even more money to hire attorneys for divorces; a hidden "tax increase" for Georgia's families courtesy of our elected officials.

Local attorney Jim Rockefeller owns the Rockefeller Law Center and is a former Houston County Chief Assistant District Attorney, and a former Miami Prosecutor. Email confidential legal questions to ajr@rockefellerlawcenter.com. Visit www.rockefellerlawcenter.com for Frequently Asked Questions and Jim's blog, The Rockefeller Report.


Georgia's new parenting plan law will have big effect
By Ellen McElyea

13 December 2007

This year, the Georgia General Assembly enacted legislation that makes several significant changes to Georgia's child custody laws.

Because approximately 65 percent of the civil cases filed in Cherokee County Superior Court are domestic relations cases, these changes will have a considerable effect on the families and children of Cherokee County, and on the work of the court.

The underlying policy of the new laws, according to the General Assembly, is to reflect Georgia's policy of assuring "that minor children have frequent and continuing contact with parents who have shown the ability to act in the best interest of their children and to encourage parents to share in the rights and responsibilities of rearing their children after the parents have separated or resolved their marriage or relationship."

The requirement of a written parenting plan brings Georgia in line with national trends. The goal is an important one: to encourage divorcing and divorced parents to give real consideration to the ways that divorce impacts their children, and to make well thought out plans for their children's well-being.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2008, parents must file a parenting plan in any case in which child custody is an issue (except in cases where a family violence temporary protective order is sought.). Currently, there is no specific form required for the parenting plan, although the Georgia Supreme Court is expected to adopt one after the first of the year.

The parenting plan is required to be comprehensive. It should acknowledge the importance of a child having a continuing relationship with both parents. It must address the legal custody of the child, a plan for the child's physical care, including holidays and school vacations, and transportation for the exercise of parenting time. The plan must acknowledge the importance of each parent having access to records regarding school, health care, extracurricular activities and religious training, and it must also designate, as between the parents, who has responsibility for making major decisions about the child.

The parenting plan may be filed by the parents jointly, or each party may file a separate parenting plan as a proposal to the court. If only one parent submits a parenting plan, the court may adopt the parent's plan if the court finds that the plan is in the child's best interest.

Any parenting plan is subject to acceptance or rejection by the court based on the court's finding of the child's best interest, health and welfare.

The new law outlines a list of factors a judge must consider in determining whether or not to accept a parenting plan, or in making custody award in general. All of these considerations have been taken into account by judges for many years, but this is the first time that Georgia law has specifically articulated them.

Among these, the law expressly requires the judge to consider the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent and child relationship between the child and the other parent, consistent with the best interest of the child.

One new provision allows parents to resolve issues related to child custody through binding arbitration. The parties may select their arbiter and decide which issues will be resolved in binding arbitration. The arbiter's decision will be final unless a judge makes a specific finding, based on evidence presented at hearing, that under the circumstances the arbiter's award would not be in the best interest of the child.

Finally, in another significant change in the law, in all custody cases in which the child has reached the age of 14 or older, a child shall have the right to select the parent with whom he or she desires to live, and this selection is presumptive unless the parent is determined not to be in the best interest of the child.

Previous Georgia law permitted a child 14 or older to make an election, which was binding, unless the parent selected by the child was unfit. Given the difficult standard of proving a parent unfit as a matter of law, the former law gave a 14-year-old child virtually free rein to pick the parent of his or her choice. The new law is a restriction on the choice of a child fourteen or older, requiring that the child's choice must be in his or her "best interests."

Parents of minor children who are involved in a divorce should understand the difficulty in navigating the law regarding child custody and support. A judge cannot give legal advice, and cannot assist any party in complying with the parenting plan requirement. Parties will be required to do even more "homework" in preparation of court.

To make sure that the end result is an order in their children's best interest, divorcing parents will find themselves in critical need of legal advice from an experienced domestic relations lawyer.

Judge Ellen McElyea is a graduate of the University of Georgia Law School, and practiced law in Canton for a number of years. In 2000, she became judge of Cherokee County Juvenile Court, where she served until she was appointed to the Superior Court of the Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit (Cherokee County) by Governor Sonny Perdue in 2007. She wrote the following article, which appeared in the Cherokee Tribune.

SOURCE: Cherokee Tribune



Parenting Plans Under HB 369

When House Bill 369, the Georgia Shared Parenting Bill, becomes law, parents in cases involving custody of their children will be required to present parenting plans to the Court. The bill's language regarding the elements of a parenting plan are listed below:

http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2007_08/fulltext/hb369.htm

a) Except when a parent seeks emergency relief for family violence pursuant to Code Section 19-13-3 or 19-13-4, in all cases in which the custody of any child is at issue between the parents, each parent shall prepare a parenting plan or the parties may jointly submit a parenting plan. It shall be in the judges discretion as to when a party shall be required to submit a parenting plan to the judge. A parenting plan shall be required for permanent custody and modification actions and in the judges discretion may be required for temporary hearings. The final decree in any legal action involving the custody of a child, including modification actions, shall incorporate a permanent parenting plan.

b)(1) Unless otherwise ordered by the judge, a parenting plan shall include the following:

   (A) A recognition that a close and continuing parent-child relationship and continuity in the child's life will be in the child's best interest;

   (B) A recognition that the child's needs will change and grow as the child matures and demonstrate that the parents will make an effort to parent that takes this issue into account so that future modifications to the parenting plan are minimized;

   (C) A recognition that a parent with physical custody will make day-to-day decisions and emergency decisions while the child is residing with such parent; and

   (D) That both parents will have access to all of the child's records and information, including, but not limited to, education, health, extracurricular activities, and religious communications.

(2) Unless otherwise ordered by the judge, or agreed upon by the parties, a parenting plan shall include, but not be limited to:

   (A) Where and when a child will be in each parents physical care, designating where the child will spend each day of the year;

   (B) How holidays, birthdays, vacations, school breaks, and other special occasions will be spent with each parent including the time of day that each event will begin and end;

   (C) Transportation arrangements including how the child will be exchanged between the parents, the location of the exchange, how the transportation costs will be paid, and any other matter relating to the child spending time with each parent;

   (D) Whether supervision will be needed for any parenting time and, if so, the particulars of the supervision;

   (E) An allocation of decision-making authority to one or both of the parents with regard to the child's education, health, extracurricular activities, and religious upbringing, and if the parents agree the matters should be jointly decided, how to resolve a situation in which the parents disagree on resolution; and

   (F) What, if any, limitations will exist while one parent has physical custody of the child in terms of the other parent contacting the child and the other parents right to access education, health, extracurricular activity, and religious information regarding the child.

c) If the parties cannot reach agreement on a permanent parenting plan, each party shall file and serve a proposed parenting plan on or before the date set by the judge. Failure to comply with filing a parenting plan may result in the judge adopting the plan of the opposing party if the judge finds such plan to be in the best interests of the child.

etc. http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2007_08/fulltext/hb369.htm


Parenting Plan Orders

A proposed new Uniform Superior Court Rule and a model Parenting Plan have been promulgated, as part of the implementation of House Bill 369 on January 1, 2008. The new Rule and the proposed Parenting Plan appear below:

Rule 24.10. Parenting plans

In all cases involving permanent custody or custody modification (except when a parent seeks emergency relief for family violence), each parent shall prepare a parenting plan, or the parties may jointly submit a parenting plan.

The parenting plan should be tailored to fit the needs of each individual family but should be in substantially the following form:

PERMANENT PARENTING PLAN ORDER

The mother and father will be courteous toward each other and each child so as to provide a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child even though they are not married. They will not speak badly of each other or the members of the family of the other parent. They will encourage each child to continue to love the other parent and be comfortable in both families.

This plan (choose one):

( ) is a new plan.
( ) modifies an existing Parenting Plan dated ___________.
( ) modifies an existing Order dated __________________.

Child's Name: _______________________________ Date of Birth: _________

I. Custody and Decision Making:

A. Legal Custody shall be (choose one):

( ) with the Mother
( ) with the Father
( ) Joint

B. Primary Physical Custodian

For each of the children named below the primary physical custodian shall be:
_____________________________  d/o/b:   ( ) Mother   ( ) Father   ( ) Joint
_____________________________  d/o/b:   ( ) Mother   ( ) Father   ( ) Joint
_____________________________  d/o/b:   ( ) Mother   ( ) Father   ( ) Joint
_____________________________  d/o/b:   ( ) Mother   ( ) Father   ( ) Joint
_____________________________  d/o/b:   ( ) Mother   ( ) Father   ( ) Joint

FOR THOSE PARENTS CHOOSING JOINT PHYSICAL CUSTODY, A DETAILED PLAN OF THE LIVING ARRANGEMENTS OF THE CHILD(REN) MUST BE ATTACHED AND MADE A PART OF THIS PARENTING PLAN.

C. Day-To-Day Decisions

Each parent shall make decisions regarding the day-to-day care of a child while the child is residing with that parent, including any emergency decisions affecting the health or safety of a child.

D. Major Decisions

Major decisions regarding each child shall be made as follows:

Educational decisions  ( ) mother  ( ) father  ( ) joint
Non-emergency health care  ( ) mother  ( ) father  ( ) joint
Religious upbringing  ( ) mother  ( ) father  ( ) joint
Extracurricular activities  ( ) mother  ( ) father  ( ) joint
_____________________  ( ) mother  ( ) father  ( ) joint
_____________________  ( ) mother  ( ) father  ( ) joint

E. Disagreements

Where parents have elected joint decision making in Section II. B. above, please explain how any disagreements in decisions making will be resolved (e.g., correspondence, telephone conversations, third party tiebreaker vote, mediation, etc.):
__________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________

II. Parenting and Visitation Schedule

A. Residential Time With Each Parent

The Custodial Parent(s) (is)(are): __________________________

Under the schedule set forth below, each parent will have parenting time with the child(ren) in the approximate percentages stated below:

Mother: _____________ %  Father: _____________ %

B. The Parents Agree to the Following (check all that apply):

( ) The parents shall make genuine efforts to refrain from arguments concerning visitations. Such arguments undermine the parents' relationship with the child and burden the child with the guilt of responsibility for such friction. The parents shall endeavor to cooperate with the child with the goal of reducing the strife and confusion surrounding the child when parents have elected to divorce. It is beneficial that the child experience affectionate care from both parents, and both of the parties hereto acknowledge that visitation exists primarily for the benefit of the child.

( ) Both parties shall be diligent in having the child ready with the necessary belongings and available at the appointed times and the transporting party shall be prompt in picking up and delivering the child, provided, however, that the transporting parent for visitation shall have a grace period of fifteen (15) minutes for pick-up and delivery if both parties live within a distance of fifty (50) miles from each other. If the one way distance to be traveled is in excess of one hundred (100) miles, the grace period shall be thirty (30) minutes. In the event the visiting parent exceeds the grace period, the visitation for that weekend is forfeited unless prior notification and arrangements have been made and except in cases where the visiting parent suffers an unavoidable breakdown or delay en route and the visiting parent promptly notifies the custodial parent by phone of the delay. Repeated violations by either parent shall be cause for granting a modification of the custody order either by changing custody or curtailing visitation, as the case may be.

( ) In the event that the child develops a serious illness or injury while visiting with one parent, that parent shall promptly inform the other parent of the child's condition. Elective surgery shall be performed on the child only after both parents have consented to the same. Emergency surgery necessary for the preservation of life or to prevent a further serious injury or condition may be performed without the other parent's consent, provided, however, that if time permits, the other parent shall be consulted and, in any event, he or she shall be informed as soon as possible.

( ) Neither party shall have his or her girlfriend, boyfriend, or other overnight date who is unrelated by blood or marriage spend the night when the child is in his or her custody.

( ) If either parent decides to relocate more than ____ miles away from the other parent's home, the moving parent will give the other parent written notice of the intent to relocate no less than (choose one) [30 days / 60 days / 90 days / six months ] prior to the date of moving.

( ) Neither party shall consume alcohol or illegal drugs and then operate a motor vehicle when the child is in his or her custody.

( ) The parent in possession of the minor child(ren) will be responsible for supervising and assisting in any schoolwork immediately due and for any activity scheduled for the child. The parents agree to give each other reasonable notice of any activities scheduled during the other parent's possession of the child(ren).

C. Visitation

During the term of this parenting plan the non-custodial parent shall have at a minimum the following rights of visitation (choose an item):

( ) The first and third weekend of each month.
( ) The first, third, and fifth weekend of each month.
( ) The second and fourth weekend of each month.
( ) Every other weekend starting on __________.
( ) Each _________ starting at _________a.m./p.m. and ending __________ a.m./p.m.
( ) Other: ______________________________________________________
( ) and weekday visitation on (choose an item):
( ) None
( ) Every Wednesday Evening
( ) Every other Wednesday during the week prior to a non-visitation weekend.
( ) Every ___________________ and _____________ evening.
( ) Other: ______________________________________________

For purposes of this parenting plan, a weekend will start at ______ a.m./p.m. on [Thursday / Friday / Saturday / Other: _____________ ] and end at _______ a.m./p.m. on [Sunday / Monday / Other: _________________ ].

Weekday visitation will begin at _____ a.m./p.m. and will end [ 7:00 p.m. / 8:00 p.m. / when the child(ren) return(s) to school or day care the next morning / Other:________ ].

This parenting schedule begins:

( ) ____________________ OR ( ) date of the Court's Order
(day and time)

D. Holiday Schedule (if applicable) and Other School Free Days
    (Attach School or District Schedule)

Indicate if child(ren) will be with the parent in ODD or EVEN numbered years or indicate EVERY year:

MOTHERFATHER
Martin Luther King Day ________________  ___________________
Presidents' Day ________________  ___________________
Mother's Day _________________  __________________
Memorial Day _______________  ____________________
Father's Day _______________  ____________________
July Fourth _______________   ____________________
Labor Day ________________  ___________________
Halloween ________________  ___________________
Thanksgiving Day & Friday _______________  ____________________
Child(ren)'s Birthday(s) __________________  _________________
Other School Free Days _________________  __________________
Mother's Birthday ________________  ___________________
Father's Birthday ________________  ___________________
Religious Holidays: ___________________________________________________
Other: _______________________  ____________________________
Other: _______________________  ____________________________
Other: _______________________  ____________________________

If there is a conflict between the regular visitation schedule and the holiday schedule, the holiday schedule will prevail.

For the purposes of this parenting plan, the holiday will start and end as follows (choose one):

( ) Holidays that fall on Friday will include the following Saturday and Sunday
( ) Holidays that fall on Monday will include the preceding Saturday and Sunday
( ) Other: _______________________________________________________

E. Fall Vacation (if applicable) (Define)

The day-to-day schedule shall apply except as follows:
__________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________
____________________________ beginning _____________________.

F. Winter Vacation

The ( ) mother ( ) father shall have the child(ren) for the first period from the day and time school is dismissed until December _____ at ________ a.m./p.m. in ( ) odd numbered years ( ) even numbered years ( ) every year. The other parent will have the child(ren) for the second period from the day and time indicated above until 6:00 p.m. on the evening before school resumes. Unless otherwise indicated, the parties shall alternate the first and second periods each year.

Other agreement of the parents:
_________________________________________________________
_________________________________________________________
_________________________________________________________.

G. Spring Vacation (if applicable) (Define)

The day to day schedule shall apply except as follows:
__________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________
____________________________ beginning _____________________.

H. Other extended periods of time during school, etc. (refer to the school schedule)
________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________

I. Summer Vacation (Define)

The day to day schedule shall apply except as follows:
__________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________
____________________________ beginning _____________________.

When holiday visitation conflicts with extended/summer visitation the (choose one):

( ) holiday schedule will be observed
( ) extended visitation will be uninterrupted
( ) other: ______________________________________________

J. Transportation Arrangements

For visitation, the place of meeting for the exchange of the child(ren) shall be:
____________________________________________________
____________________________________________________
____________________________________________________.

The [ parent taking possession of the child / Mother / Father ] will be responsible for transportation of the child at the beginning of visitation.

The [ parent taking possession of the child / Mother / Father ] will be responsible for transportation of the child at the conclusion of visitation.

Payment of long distance transportation costs (if applicable) will be paid by:

( ) mother ( ) father ( ) both equally

Define "long distance" for purposes of transportation: _____________.

Other arrangements: ________________________________________.

If a parent does not possess a valid driver's license, he or she must make reasonable transportation arrangements to protect the child or children while in the care of that parent.

K. Changes and Cancellations (please check if applicable):

( ) If the parents cannot agree on a requested change in the visitation schedule, the parents agree to seek voluntary mediation to resolve the differences prior to filing a modification with the Court. If mediation is requested, the cost of mediation will be paid by (choose one) [the party requesting the change / both parties equally / other: ___________ ].

L. Telephone Access

The parents agree that when the child or children reside with one, the other parent will have the right to unimpeded telephone conversations with the child or children as follows (check all that apply):

( ) Unrestricted telephone access to the child(ren) during reasonable hours and of reasonable duration.
( ) _________ telephone calls to the child(ren) per week with the duration of each call not to exceed __________ minutes.
( ) The child(ren) are allowed to call either parent at any time.
( ) Neither parent will monitor the telephone conversations their child(ren) have with the other parent.
( ) Neither parent will use the child(ren) to communicate messages to the other parent.

Other provisions for telephone access:
_________________________________________________________
_________________________________________________________

M. Supervision of Parenting Time (if applicable)

( ) Check here if Applicable

Supervised parenting time shall apply during the day-to-day schedule as follows:

Place: _______________________________________________________

Person/Organization supervising: _________________________________

Responsibility for cost:

( ) mother ( ) father ( ) both equally

N. Conduct and Communication Provisions

Please check all that apply:

( ) Each parent shall promptly notify the other parent of a change of address, phone number or cell phone number so that the other parent may exercise visitation, notify the other parent, and reach the child(ren) while in the other parent's possession. (Please see relocation provision in Section II. B. above pertaining to moves of greater distances).
( ) The child(ren) will not be left alone until the age of ______.
( ) Neither parent will
( ) Discuss past, present or future litigation with the child(ren);
( ) Complain about, criticize, or blame the other parent in the presence of the child(ren) and shall instruct others to refrain from such conduct in the presence of the child(ren);
( ) Accuse the other parent of being at fault in the presence of the child(ren);
( ) Use the child(ren) as "bargaining chips" to influence the actions of the other parent;
( ) Make negative, critical or hurtful comments about the other party's family members in the presence of the minor children; and
( ) Use profanity in any conversation with the other parent in the child(ren)'s presence or go into the other parent's home without consent.

III. Access to Records

A. Rights of the Parents

Pursuant to O.C.G.A.  19-9-1 (b) (1) (D), both parents are entitled to access to all of the child(ren)'s records and information, including, but not limited to, education, health, extracurricular activities, and religious communications. Designation as a non-custodial parent does not affect a parent's right to equal access to these records. However, the parties may agree to limitations on access to records.

Please list any agreed to limitations on access rights:
__________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________

B. School Records Access / Communication Provisions (check all that apply):

( ) The parents shall take the necessary action with school authorities of the schools in which the children are enrolled to:

   A. List both parents as a parent of the child(ren);
   B. Authorize the school to release to both parents any and all information concerning the child(ren);
   C. Ensure that both parents receive copies of any notices regarding the child(ren).

( ) Each parent will be entitled to complete, detailed information or reports from any teacher or school pertaining to the child(ren), their schoolwork, their educational needs, their conduct, or opportunities available to the child(ren).
( ) Each parent shall promptly transmit to the other parent any information received concerning parent schedules and any other school activities in which the child(ren) may be engaged or interested.
( ) Each parent shall promptly after receipt, furnish the other parent a photocopy of the child(ren)'s grade reports and copies of any other reports concerning the child(ren)'s status or progress.
( ) Each parent shall, when possible, arrange appointments for parent  teacher conferences at a time when the other parent can be present and, whenever possible, they shall be attended by both parents.

IV. Modification of Plan or Disagreements

Parties may, by mutual agreement, vary the parenting time/visitation; however, such agreement shall not be a binding court order. Custody shall only be modified by court order.
Should the parents disagree about this parenting plan or wish to modify it, they must make a good faith effort to resolve the issue between them. Possible channels for resolution of disputes include mediation, arbitration, or the Court. Please indicate below your preferred method of dispute resolution.

( ) Mediation by a neutral party chosen by the parents or the Court.
( ) Arbitration by a neutral party selected by parents or the Court.
( ) The Court due to order of protection or restrictions.
( ) Other: ____________________________________________________________

The costs of this process may be determined by the alternative dispute process or may be assessed by the Court based upon the incomes of the parents. It must be commenced by notifying the other parent and the Court by ( ) written request ( ) certified mail ( ) other: _______________.

In the dispute resolution process:

1. Preference shall be given to carrying out this parenting plan.
2. The parents shall use the process to resolve disputes relating to implementation of the Plan.
3. A written record shall be prepared of any agreement reached, and it shall be provided to each parent.
4. If the Court finds that a parent willfully failed to appear without good reason, the Court, upon motion, may award attorney fees and financial sanctions to the prevailing parent.

V. Special Considerations

Please attach an addendum detailing any special circumstances of which the Court should be aware (e.g., health issues, educational issues, etc.)

VI. Parents' Consent

Please review the following and initial:

1. We recognize that a close and continuing parent-child relationship and continuity in the child's life is in the child's best interest.

Mother's Initials: ___________ Father's Initials: ____________

2. We recognize that our child's needs will change and grow as the child matures; we have made a good faith effort to take these changing needs into account so that the need for future modifications to the parenting plan are minimized.

Mother's Initials: ___________ Father's Initials: ____________

3. We recognize that the parent with physical custody will make the day-to-day decisions and emergency decisions while the child is residing with such parent (see Section I. C. above).

Mother's Initials: ___________ Father's Initials: ____________

We knowingly and voluntarily agree on the terms of this Permanent Parenting Plan Order. Each of us affirms that the information we have provided in this Plan is true and correct.

______________________________    _______________________________
Father's Signature                            Mother's Signature

ORDER

The Court has reviewed the foregoing Permanent Parenting Plan Order, and it is hereby made the order of this Court.

Attachment
USA Georgia Parenting Plan Template

What is a Parenting Plan?

When parents divorce or separate and a child is involved decisions about where the child will live, how the child will be raised, and the routine decision making about the child's upbringing is often a difficult and emotional issue for parents to sort out in the mist of their divorce. With so many decisions that need to be made in the context of a divorce and child custody situation it is not uncommon for the parents to become frustrated, stressed, and overwhelmed especially if they do not know where to begin. So where does a parent involved in a divorce and child custody begin? You can begin by working on a parenting plan separately or together that takes into consideration your child's needs and also reflects what you believe to be in the overall best interest of your child.

A parenting plan is a document that outlines the parenting schedule or timeshare and can include each parent's responsibilities to raise their child. A parenting plan can be lengthy and detailed or it can be brief and simple. A parenting plan should include the standard parenting schedule, which can include where the child will live during the week and weekends and who will be responsible for taking and picking the child up from school and other activities on certain days. Additionally, the parenting plan can address the holidays, summer vacations, and how other special days during the year will be divided between the parents. Regardless of what is included in your parenting plan it should be predictable, clear, and easy to understand. Further, the parenting plan should take into consideration the needs of the child and reflect his/her overall best interest.

Because the family dynamics vary from family to family there is no one-size-fits-all parenting plan that works well for all families. Some parents may have a shared parenting plan, which allows the child frequent and continuous contact and/or to live with each parent 50% of the time. Other parenting plans may limit one parent's contact to every other weekend plus a mid-week visit or mid-week overnight. Other parenting plans may be further restrictive allowing for dinner visits but no overnights.

Although it is wise to create a parenting plan that you believe reflects the best interest of your child, it is also wise to consider consulting an attorney to learn where you stand legally on your particular matter before entering into any proposed parenting plan agreement. This is especially important in cases where you believe the other party has ulterior motives or is not working in good-faith to build a parenting plan that truly reflects the overall best interest of your child.

SOURCE: Child Custody Coach


Developing a Parenting Plan: A Guide for Divorcing Parents

19 February 2007

The Shared Parenting bill now pending in the Georgia legislature mandates parenting plans. For a look at what should be included in such plans, see the following excerpt from an article by Leanne Spengler, published by the University of Missouri:

The parenting plan will direct the future parental and parent-child relationships. For this reason, parents should be actively involved in developing the parenting plan. Research suggests that when the parents can work together to develop the parenting plan, the plan is much easier to implement and works more effectively. If the parents are cooperatively parenting, they can be supportive of each other, share responsibilities, and make decisions regarding the child's care and well being.

The parenting plan

Parents know the most about the child and the child's needs. Parents are also aware of their parenting strengths. The parenting plan should be based on both parents' strengths in meeting the child's needs. This guide defines terms and discusses considerations that need to be addressed in deciding the specific details of a parenting plan. The information follows the same form as the Missouri Parenting Plan Guidelines.

Custody and visitation

Definitions

Physical custody refers to the living or residential arrangements of the child and how the child's time is shared between parents. When a parent has custody of the child, the child lives with that parent. The custodial parent has the day-to-day care, supervision and decision-making responsibilities for the child. When an emergency decision-making situation occurs, the other parent should be notified as soon as possible.

A parent may have sole physical custody in which the child lives and spends the majority of time with one parent. In joint physical custody arrangements, the child spends time and lives with both parents.

Considerations

In traditional joint physical custody agreements, the child lives part of the time in the mother's house and part of the time in the father's house. Bird's nest custody is an arrangement where the children remain in the home and the parents alternate living with the children. Joint custody works best when both parents are within the same community or neighborhood. When parents are geographically separated, the child may have a primary residence during the week and school year and then visit the other parent on weekends, holidays and during summer vacations. The parenting plan also indicates when and where the exchange of the child is made between households. The parent may pick the child up at the appropriate time from day care, school or the other parent's home and return the child at the appropriate time back to day care, school or the other parent's home - depending upon the arrangement.

Joint custody gives both parents substantial amounts of time with the child. The schedule is created by the parents' specification of how the time is shared during the week, on weekends and holidays. These specifications are a part of the parenting plan form and any change from the basic schedule (as listed in the form) will need to be presented to the court for approval. There are many possible combinations of time from which parents can select. For example, combinations that might give an equal amount of time are alternate weekends, one night a week, and all summer or alternating three-day and four-day stays. A more typical schedule would be alternate weekends, alternate holidays and one night a week. This combination would give both parents weekly contact with the child.

No matter how the time is divided, all family members should have a copy of the schedule that includes dates and times. For young children, this may be a color-coded calendar; for older children and adolescents, a regular calendar or date book may be satisfactory. Knowing the schedule helps children be prepared to go between houses and helps eliminate the need to question parents about the schedule.

Decision-making rights and responsibilities

Definitions

Legal custody refers to the decision-making rights and responsibilities concerning the child's health, education and welfare.

Sole legal custody gives one parent the responsibility for making significant legal decisions. The other parent may be permitted to make certain legal decisions, if specified by the parenting plan. In joint legal custody situations, both parents share the responsibility of making decisions about the child. This requires the parents to be cooperative and may be allowed only if both parents agree formally.

Considerations

Whether the parents decide to have sole or joint legal custody, any major decisions regarding the child's health, education or welfare should be a shared decision by both parents. Decisions about child/day care, basic education and college, religious affiliation and training, and special talents and corresponding lessons or camps should be made with input from both parents and maybe the child. These decisions can affect the amount of time the child has to spend with parents, as well as the parents' financial obligations.

Not only should both parents' names be listed on any school or health records of the child, but both parents should have access to any records relating to the child. Whenever possible, both parents should know about and be present at parent-teacher conferences; school, sporting and religious events; or any other activities in which the child is a participant. A parent's presence is an important indicator of the love, concern and support of the child.

The parenting plan requires parents to designate who will make physical and mental healthcare decisions. These decisions include who the healthcare providers will be, what care and treatment will be given, and what medications will be taken. If the decisions are not made jointly by both parents, a reason must be stated in the parenting plan. Each parent should have the capability to access medical attention for the child in emergency situations.

Dispute resolution

Definitions

Mediation uses a neutral person, who may be appointed by the court, to help parents make choices and decisions about their child. If there is a charge for the mediation services, the parenting plan designates how the service will be paid for.

Considerations

Inter-parental conflict is a major factor in how well the child adjusts to a parental divorce. Conflict in the presence of the child should be avoided. But when conflict occurs, how parental conflict is resolved sets an example the child can use in his or her future relationships with others. Although the process and language used in a divorce proceeding is naturally adversarial, divorcing parents need to create an environment of cooperation with each other. This environment may include developing a method for sharing information and include a process for negotiations. Negotiations could be handled by planning a meeting in a neutral location or a phone conversation with an agenda of only one or two issues. Parenting issues (discipline, time-sharing, etc.) and money issues should be discussed separately, at different times. Once the agenda is planned, it should be adhered to. Bringing up other issues can reduce cooperation and may lead to arguments or conflict.

Expenses of the child or children

Definitions

It is the responsibility of both parents to provide for the financial support of their child through child support. This includes the basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, education and routine medical care. Terms of the child support agreement should be specific and not just a dollar amount.

Considerations

Although child support and custody are two separate agreements, there is some overlap. Decisions about legal and physical custody should be made before child support is calculated because these decisions could affect the child support agreement. There may be additional expenses when the child pursues interests and develops special talents. Whenever possible, these additional expenses should be listed in the parenting plan. In terms of physical custody, the amount of support may be tied to the number of overnight stays in each house. Transportation costs between households may be a factor that needs to be taken into consideration.

There may be many options for payments of health insurance; the parent with the better coverage may make the payments, the payments could be divided equally between the parents, or one parent could make the payment. Who pays for services and prescriptions that are not covered by insurance co-payments should be a part of the parenting plan.

Financial support may continue to be a point of disagreement long after the divorce is final. Some of the disagreements may be the result of not having a realistic idea of the costs of raising a child. Another issue that can be a problem is the payment of child support. Parents should make every effort to meet their financial obligations for their children in a timely manner. Meeting these obligations is not only important to the care of the child, but also to the well-being of the child. When a child is aware that a parent is not meeting the financial obligations of child support, the child may interpret this as a loss of interest and love by the parent.

The income that supported the family before the divorce will need to support two separate households after the divorce. To make ends meet, parents may need to work more hours, take an additional job or economize whenever possible.

Building in changes

Life and parenting hold many unforeseen circumstances. For example, disability, remarriage and the relocation of a parent will require that the parenting plan be changed. The death of a parent may raise questions about the rights and responsibilities of the deceased parent's family. Custody and support provisions by the surviving parent may be altered as a result of the other parent's death.

Day-to-day circumstances may require some flexibility in the parenting plan to avoid going back to court. This may be accomplished by private agreements between the parents. Private agreements can be worthwhile to both parents, but must be acceptable to both parents before being carried out. The following are examples of private agreements to accommodate special circumstances.

- When a parent needs to have a babysitter overnight, the other parent could have the option of having the child or children with him or her or the right of first refusal. This agreement would not affect the custody or child support agreements, but would be a means of spending extra time with the child or children while helping the other parent.

- As a child grows, so does the cost of caring for him or her. A cost of living clause may be included when the child is young to plan or allow for expenses such as braces, glasses, college tuition, etc., in addition to the increase in basic costs.

- Many authors of divorce guides for parents recommend an annual review of the parenting plan during the first years of implementation. Both parents should do this review, preferably together, to identify provisions that should be maintained and provisions that might need to be changed.

- When parents divorce, the marital relationship ends but not the parental relationship. This relationship must be reorganized to fit the new role and responsibilities of parenting apart. The parenting plan is a written, legal document that helps parents share the time, caregiving responsibilities and financial obligations of being a parent. The plan should have enough detail to be useful, yet enough flexibility to be realistic. The ultimate goal of a parenting plan is to provide the details that reflect the best interests of the child.

SOURCE: University of Missouri
http://muextension.missouri.edu/xplor/hesguide/humanrel/gh6130.htm
http://www.universityupdate.com/Big_12/Missouri/1074062.aspx?src=blog

Family Law Ideas from New Legislation Commencing 2008 in Georgia, USA

NB: This example is American and does not literally apply in Australia and should NOT be quoted or used literally in Australian family law courts.  Instead, the usefulness of this information lies in its coverage of examples and listing of matters - the issues and the elements - to consider when drafting an Australian parenting plan or court orders. Additionally, some phrases and sentences may suggest useful wordings that could be integrated into an Australian plan or orders.



11 Alive News
26 December 2007
 
2008 Brings New Child Custody Laws
Reported by: Denis O'Hayer

The New Year will bring several new laws to Georgia including more changes to the state's rules for divorcing parents. The new law streamlines the process for determining child custody because the bill's sponsors said our old laws often trapped kids in traumatic legal battles.

Representative Judy Manning (R) chairs the House Children and Youth Committee. She and other sponsors of the new law said they'd heard from parents of kids stuck in custody fights that never seemed to end.

So, the 2007 legislature passed some changes.

One requires each parent in a custody contest to file a parenting plan with the court. The hope is the judge could then get both parents to sit down and agree on a final plan; so mom and dad won't fight to pile up hours with the kids, just to win custody from a judge who doesn't know their individual lives.

"The idea that you can count the hours that you had with your child was really too tight for the parents. It got to be too personal, and too much of a squabble," Manning said.

Other parts of the new law:

- Judges can award attorney's fees. That's supposed to keep wealthier parents from using constant challenges as a weapon.

- Parents can further streamline the process by agreeing to use binding arbitration instead of the courts.

- Kids 14 and over can no longer be the sole deciders of which parent's house they'll call home.

"Sometimes it became part of a bidding war, where one parent would promise a car or a computer or a cell phone or whatever," Manning said.

Two years ago, there was a huge fight over how to divvy up money between so-called first and second families. But, this law - to shorten the pain for all kids - passed both the House and Senate with just one no vote.

The new law also requires courts to keep track of how many custody fights they handle. Up to now, lawmakers and judges haven't been able to get good statistics on how many kids are affected by custody battles.

Video report

Comparisons

Despite what people might say about the Australian Family Courts - at least (thank goodness) they are under one jurisdiction.

Interesting to note that some of what is proposed in the above articles has been applying in Australia even before the Amended Family Law Act.

Ah - they call it "change of circumstance" - perhaps we can sell the term Rice and Asplund to them?

The flip on 14 year olds is interesting - a pity there is no research with it … and before anyone asks - the answer is mostly 'Yes' a 14 year old can 'decide' in Australia. Since a 14 year old can leave home and receive financial assistance from the Government (and can go live on the streets) you don't need to be a member of Mensa to understand why they mostly get to live with the parent of choice.

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on this site (look for the Avatars) Be mindful what you post in public areas. 

Statistics

dad4life said
The new law also requires courts to keep track of how many custody fights they handle. Up to now, lawmakers and judges haven't been able to get good statistics on how many kids are affected by custody battles.
Interesting Country - the USA, they can land men on the moon, put a missile through a bathroom window yet don't have information about this.

Well at least we have 'CaseTrack' in the FCoA and FMC but the information is so secret you might wonder if the Pentagon is controlling it.

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on this site (look for the Avatars) Be mindful what you post in public areas. 
I think one of the best changes made (don't know if it was procedural or law) was to keep the same judge on a case, where possible. Case track also sounds exceptionally good, I hope there is more detail than the public one that can be accessed on the FCoA site.

Junior Executive of SRL-Resources

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on this site (Look for the Avatars). Be mindful what you post in public areas. 
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