Parenting Plan
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By Dorit Goikhman
Founding Attorney
Parenting Plan

California, like many other states, recognizes the importance of both parents playing an active role in their children’s lives post-separation or divorce.

The state encourages parents to create a comprehensive parenting plan that outlines how they will share time and responsibilities regarding their children. But what happens when parents can’t reach an agreement on a parenting plan in California? Let’s delve into the steps and implications.

Understanding the Importance of a Parenting Plan

A parenting plan, at its core, details how parents will share custody and visitation rights. It encompasses various facets such as:

Where the child will reside (physical custody)

How decisions about the child’s education, health, and welfare will be made (legal custody)
Specifics about holiday schedules, pickups and drop-offs, and communication guidelines
Having a well-defined plan in place helps in creating stability and predictability for the child while minimizing potential conflicts between parents.

Mandatory Mediation in California

When parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, they are required to attend mediation in California. This process involves meeting with a neutral third party, the mediator, who assists parents in discussing and hopefully resolving their differences.

Key points about mediation:

The primary focus is on the child’s best interest.
It’s a confidential process.
The mediator doesn’t make decisions for the parents but facilitates a constructive conversation.
What If Mediation Doesn’t Work?
If, after mediation, parents still can’t agree on a parenting plan, the case typically goes before a judge.

Evaluation: In some cases, the court may order a custody evaluation. A custody evaluator, often a mental health professional, assesses the family dynamics, the child’s needs, and each parent’s ability to meet those needs. Based on their findings, they provide the court with recommendations.

Hearing: The court will set a hearing where each parent can present their case. They can provide evidence, witness testimonies, and argue for what they believe is in the best interest of the child.

Court’s Decision: Based on the evidence presented and, in some cases, the evaluator’s recommendations, the judge will make a decision. This decision will be legally binding, and both parents will need to adhere to it.

Can the Court’s Decision Be Modified?

Yes, parenting plans can be modified in the future. If either parent believes there’s been a significant change in circumstances (e.g., relocation, change in job hours, health issues) and that a modification is in the child’s best interest, they can request the court to review and potentially modify the existing plan.

In Conclusion

While it’s always preferable for parents to come to a mutual agreement regarding their parenting plan, disputes can arise. California’s system aims to ensure that, regardless of these disputes, decisions prioritize the child’s welfare.

For parents facing such disagreements, it’s beneficial to seek legal counsel, remain open to mediation, and be prepared to advocate for what they believe is best for their child while navigating the court system. Remember, the central focus throughout this process should always be the well-being and best interests of the child.

About the Author
Dorit L. Goikhman is a licensed attorney, with years of experience representing clients throughout Central California in business, real estate, and family matters. After witnessing numerous clients spend fortunes and waste years of their lives in litigation, Dorit became interested in mediation and all that it has to offer. Dorit is committed in helping parties work together to obtain a mutually acceptable solution to their disputes at a fair price. Her approach is to keep things simple, confidential, and efficient with the goal of preserving the parties’ assets, reputations, and sanity. If you have any questions regarding this blog, you can contact Dorit here.