When John and Megan divorced, the court ruled that they would share equal time with their daughter, Christina, who was three years old at the time of the divorce. John and Megan lived in close proximity of one another and Christina’s preschool, so sharing time worked out very well at first.
Things changed a bit when Megan’s promotion at work meant moving to a different city that was four hours away by car. John and Megan worked it out so that Christina would now stay two weeks at a time with each parent.
When Christina reached kindergarten, the arrangement had to change once again, since Christina could not be going back and forth between schools as she had in preschool. John and Megan came up with a “parenting plan” that adjusted their arrangement so that Christina would live primarily with Megan, and spend other designated times, such as during vacation breaks from school, with John.
A parenting plan allows you to make adjustments to a previous court order without the cost and hassle of a new application to the court. Once a parenting plan is in place, the original court order cannot be legally enforced. However, the parenting plan cannot be enforced on its own either. Oftentimes, as is the case with John and Megan, both parents are happy with the plan and abide by it, so there is no need for it to be legally enforced. Others may find it necessary to file a new application to the court.
A parenting plan drawn up outside of the court is not always allowed. For instance, if there is suspicion that one parent is using abuse or manipulation to get the other to agree to a new plan that suits them better, the court will rule that no changes to the original orders can be made without going through the court. A parenting plan may specify who the child will live with, the time the child will spend with the other parent, and who will make decisions about major issues involving the child. The plan can be eliminated or changed any time through a written agreement.