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Planning visitation and custody

When couples in California get divorced, the ex-spouses will need to come to an agreement regarding visitation and custody of their children. A parenting plan is a written agreement that sets out in detail the visitation times and rights of each parent. This can help to establish order in the relationship and avoid potential conflicts.

Parenting plans are intended to ensure that the best interests of children are protected. The plan is primarily for the benefit of the children, but it can be very useful for the parents as well. The first component of the plan is time-sharing, or how the parents will take turns spending time with the children. The second component deals with the responsibility of the parents when it comes to making decisions regarding the children's health care, education and well-being.

A parenting plan should be used to make sure that the children have the opportunity to spend quality time with both parents. Except in cases of abuse or court restrictions, both parents should be allowed time with the children. Parenting plans work best when both parents agree to the conditions and then strive to abide by them. In this way, the best interests of the children are considered first.

The plan should also have clear information detailing how and when both parents are allowed to contact the children. It is also helpful to include an agreement stipulating that both parents can have access to the children's medical records. After the plan is finalized and both parents sign it, a judge will sign it and make it a court order.

Figuring out the best interest of a child in custody cases can be complex. An attorney may be able to help parents prepare for mediation by explaining parenting plans and providing information about custody and visitation.

Source: Judicial Council of California, "Parenting Plans", January 04, 2015

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