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Making a parenting plan that works

For parents in Pennsylvania who are divorcing, making a parenting plan may present a challenge, but it is also necessary. While a parenting plan cannot relieve all of the emotional pain that the end of a marriage may bring, it can simplify negotiations and make the situation less fraught for children.

Most parenting plans have three elements. The first two are legal and physical custody. Legal custody, which is usually shared between both parents, deals with who has the power to make the major decisions in a child's life about things like education. Physical custody is about who the child lives with and when. A third part can address other matters such as one parent moving out of state.

Creating a strong plan sends a message that the parents are serious about the well-being of their children. It also creates a framework for resolving conflict and for checking back on what was originally agreed upon in calmer circumstances if disagreements arise later. A detailed parenting plan may head off some of those conflicts before they arise by giving parents the opportunity to anticipate and discuss them. The plan may not only make for more harmonious relations while the children are young but might smooth the transition to sharing the company of grandchildren later in life.

A family law attorney can often assist a client who is going through a divorce in creating a parenting plan without turning to a judge to make the final decisions. The advantage may be that parents are better equipped to understand their child's needs and what works best for their family. However, even if the divorce is contentious, it is important to remember that the goal of such a plan is the best interests of the child rather than winning or losing.

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