Understanding Parenting Plans
Understanding Parenting Plans
When parents enter agreements concerning parenting, those agreements must be in writing, and are called, “Parenting Plans.” Experienced and highly qualified lawyers, who practice Family Law, are familiar with the language and provisions unique to every case that should be used in drafting a Parenting Plan. A Parenting Plan that is signed by the parties and adopted by the Court as order becomes enforceable and binding upon both parents for all purposes in the future. It is always best for the parties to avoid having a judge make arbitrary rulings as to parental responsibilities when the better approach is for parents to take command to do this in a responsible and capable manner without judicial interference in their personal family lives. Specific terms of a Parenting Plan respect parents who wish that their visitation and custody rights are enforceable by the court.
What is “Allocation of Parental Responsibilities?”
This is the area of the law that grants the court authority to determine parenting time and decision making that satisfies the “best interests of the children.” It is a wide range of considerations which includes everything from custody and parenting time, to religious and spiritual upbringing. In each and every case, parents must be treated fairly in the Court's assessment of what is best for children. “Gender-neutral,” is the terminology used that must apply in each and every case where parental responsibilities are at issue. In all such cases, it is the parental rights of individual parents that govern, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. It is also important to understand that, “paramount consideration” shall be given by the judge as to the “child's safety and the physical, mental, and emotional conditions of the child.”
Father's Rights refers to a movement in the United States and in each state where Fathers have asserted their rights to be equally involved in the care and custody of their children. This movement started in the 1970's and continues to this day. When Fathers successfully argued in courts that they could do all of the things that mothers do in parenting children, a wave of change enveloped this area of the law. As a society, the changes that evolved over time in which fathers were primarily the bread winners while mothers stayed at home has greatly impacted divorces where children were involved. Those barriers to fathers having equal standing in being able to co-parent their children once divorces become final have become the new standard in “co-parenting” children in America. With more and more fathers proving that they can become impactful in rearing their children, with the same amount of attention and love as mothers, courts have become more accepting of giving fathers equal parenting rights.
Each case has facts that are unique to the specific situation of the parties and the children involved. Those facts often times include the ways that fathers have made changes to their employment or business schedules to be more available and ready to share in parenting duties, even in cases where a child is an infant. The more that a father can prove and establish a “past pattern of involvement” with the children, the greater chance the father will have in obtaining equal parenting. This typically means that a father must demonstrate that he has had an equal hands on approach and involvement in every facet of a child's life. Here are some examples of how Father's can establish their level of involvement in parenting:
- Taking children to medical, dental, and other health appointments
- Being fully engaged as an equal caregiver to the same extent as the other parent
- Attending teacher conferences, events, and other kinds of activities that concern the children
- Working on education assignments or homework
- Sports, coaching, and other extra-curricular activities
- Quality alone time with each child
- Mentorship with children
- Specific examples of the bonding between father and child(ren)
Conflicts With Father's Rights
Father's rights can be negatively impacted when mothers allege that a father is not fit to engage in equal parenting. Remember, that when a parent is alleged to have an alcohol or substance abuse concern, anger or violent behaviors, committed domestic abuse/violence, child abuse, or has a mental health disorder, or other such conditions, it may be addressed by the court, even if such allegations are untruthful. The truthfulness of such assertions may depend on what will most likely have a negative impact in resolving parental responsibility disputes. Either parent may allege that there exists safety concerns as a result of a parent's history of conduct that could potentially harm children. In thousands of cases where the Law Offices of Gordon Shayne have represented fathers, we have seen many such cases turn on the question of the strengths and weaknesses of the actual evidence. Fathers should always be prepared to discuss with their lawyers the anticipated allegations that may be used by mothers who want to show that the father is dangerous or engages in unsafe behaviors. Lawyers who see this kind of attack against fathers can provide fathers with a plan of attack to defeat unproven or non-existent assertions.
In many paternity actions, fathers face the possibility of not being involved in their young child's life, because the mother only wants to establish a child support obligation and she does not believe that the father is capable of parenting their young child. In those cases, it is up to the father to step forward and demand that his father's rights be considered. The measure of every father's rights determination is for a father to actually prove the ways that the mother has objected to father's willing involvement in the child's life, to show that father is healthy and is a loving, caring parent. Absent some degree of conduct by father that is a prohibition to his qualifications to equally co-parent the child, a mother's attack on father can not be based solely on father's gender. Unfortunately, in these kinds of cases, the fight to protect a father's rights and seek an equal role in co-parenting the child, is often the only way to let the Court know that a father will not accept a lesser role than what the mother has.
Call Gordon N. Shayne to Learn More About Your Custody Rights as a Father
In a career of over 30 years, Gordon N. Shayne, has provided legal advice and impactful, aggressive legal strategies to fathers who are interested in pursuing and protecting their rights to co-parent their children. In thousands of such parental responsibilities, child custody and paternity cases, I have successfully argued in courts that father's rights must be strongly protected and that they are consistent with a child's best interests the same as that of the mother.