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Where to begin when discussing child custody

Other people make it sound so easy -- creating a parenting plan. If you received this advice, you may feel overwhelmed and find yourself wondering where to start. You and your future former spouse already agreed to come to an agreement on your own in order to tailor it to your family's needs.

Even so, you know that the court still has to approve your final product. You don't want to have to go back to the proverbial drawing board, so you need to start by understanding what a New York court looks for when reviewing your parenting plan.

What does the judge expect?

Put simply, the judge expects your child custody agreement, including your parenting plan, to reflect the best interests of your children. It makes sense on its face, but you need to figure out what that means. What will the court look for when reviewing your plan? Consider the following:

  • Does your plan unreasonably disrupt the children's routines? The court will look at whether your children will retain their school, childcare and daily routines as much as possible.
  • Some changes are inevitable, and the court recognizes this. The key is to substantiate those changes and make sure they have more of a positive impact on the children over the long term.
  • Does your plan allow each of you to parent to the best of your abilities? Each of you needs to show you can meet the children's daily needs and make decisions that give your children the opportunity to thrive and succeed.
  • Make sure your plan does not somehow jeopardize the children's safety.
  • Your parenting plan should take the ages of your children into consideration. Younger children need more hands-on attention than older children, so keep that in mind.

As long as your plan factors in these requirements, the court will more than likely approve it. Of course, the judge may want to ask you and the other parent some questions regarding your plan, especially if it lies "outside the box" in some way. His or her asking of those questions does not mean that your plan will not receive approval; it simply means the judge wants to make sure he or she understands your intentions.

The other issue you may want to consider is whether your plan will work in reality. If your work schedule, the children's schedules or other factors interfere with the plan as written, you will run into trouble putting your plan into action. The good news is that, when you finalize your plan, the odds are good that both of you will follow it since you created it together.

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Hall, Ricketts, Schuller & Gurbacki, P.C.
471 Main Street
East Aurora, NY 14052

Phone: 716-243-3515
Fax: 716-652-2058
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