How does a divorcing couple decide a parenting plan?

By Kate Miller
November 07, 2017
How does a divorcing couple decide a parenting plan?

A divorcing couple can create their own parenting plan even if they’re not married and they're just separated. It's important to keep in mind that whether they're in a divorce or just a custody dispute you're able to agree to anything, reduce that agreement to writing, and file it with the court. These agreements are usually called stipulations. That word can be confusing for a lot of people. If people don’t agree, if parents or parties don’t agree, the court will issue an order deciding custody, also known as parenting time, issues for the parties.

As a general rule parties are always happy with an agreement they make because they know themselves and the children best as opposed to if the court makes the decision for them and then makes that decision a court order. As the attorney, I can't and don’t make the really difficult decision of how a parent should parent his or her children. I do advise my clients of the law and encourage them to make decisions in the best interest of the children.

Ultimately if the parents do not agree on what is in the best interest of the children, the court will step in and make those parenting time decisions, which the court believes are in the best interest of the children. As long as the parents agree how to co-parent, whether or not they're married, there's a presumption that the parents know what is best for their children. Because of this a court doesn’t butt into parenting of the children unless the children are in danger or if the parents no longer agree what's best.

This agreement on how to parent most often occurs when the parent's divorce or break up and fight over custody and decision making. Parents might have many reasons for wanting primary custody. Maybe one parent works nights and is unable to spend time during the week with the children. In that instance the parent would likely exercise time on the weekend, however the fact that a parent works a certain schedule does not guarantee specific parenting time. There are many factors that a court will consider.

Although parents may have reached an agreement on their own and attempted to live by their own understanding of what they agreed to without getting a court order, failing to reduce it to writing and getting a court order can cause lots of trouble. For example, if there's ever disagreement in the future, these parties don’t have an enforceable court order, which means they're forced to go back to court and argue everything from the beginning. It's really messy and if the parties simply reduce the agreement to writing at the beginning and get the court to stamp it as a court order, they avoid this mess in the future. It's a little work now that saves a lot of trouble later.

Kate Miller is a Denver, Colorado attorney focused exclusively on the practices of divorce and family law. She has lived many of the issues regarding divorce and child custody, and is passionate about helping people through this process. To learn more about Kate and her firm visit

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November 07, 2017
Categories:  FAQs

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