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The elements of an effective parenting plan

Divorce forces parents to make difficult choices about how their children will be raised and with whom the children will live. While some parents cannot come to terms with each other about these important matters and must rely on judicial intervention to establish custodial and visitation arrangements, many Virginia parents are able to put their differences aside and create their own parenting plans. These agreements set forth schedules, terms and other important information that will dictate how the parents will interact to raise their children following their split.

At a minimum, a parenting plan or agreement should outline how physical and legal custody of the child will be managed. If the parents are to jointly share physical custody of the child, then the plan should provide specific information about how and when the child will move from household to household. If a parent will have sole physical custody of the child, then the plan should establish when the non-custodial parent will have visitation.

Parents may address visitation issues that may arise with third parties, such as grandparents, aunts and uncles. In many cases, grandparents can fight for visitation time with their grandkids. However, parental preference is an important factor in when and for how long those periods of visitation will last.

Finally, a parenting plan should determine which parent will have legal custody of the child, or if both will share in this important responsibility. Parents may also decide to set rules for how parenting disagreements will be handled in the future should they arise. A parent-created plan for custody and visitation may meet individuals' needs better than one drafted and ordered by a court.

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