WHY PARENTING PLANS ARE NECESSARY
Unless special circumstances exist, preserving a healthy and ongoing
relationship between children and both parents after divorce or separation, or for parents that never married is of greatest importance. Positive involvement with both parents furthers the child's emotional and social development, academic achievement, and overall adjustment. Adult children of divorce describe the loss of contact with a parent and conflict between their parents as the most painful part of divorce or parental separation.
Written parenting plans provide children and parents with predictability and consistency and can prevent future conflict. Courts prefer that parents reach agreements about parenting time. When parents reach agreements, they are more likely to cooperate as their children grow up. Children do best when their parents cooperate with each other. The reverse is also true. Children who
experience ongoing conflict between parents are at high risk for suffering serious long‐term emotional problems.
The parenting plan will include a statement about legal decision-making authority. In Arizona, parents may have sole or joint legal decision-making authority. Parents may agree that one parent will have sole legal decision-making authority or that joint legal decision-making authority is in their children’s best interests. A parent who has sole decision-making authority has the right to make major decisions about the children’s health, education, personal care, and religious upbringing. Parents who have joint legal decision-making authority make such decisions together, unless otherwise specified. Parents with joint legal decision-making authority do not necessarily have equal parenting time.
The key to successful co‐parenting is a written parenting plan that states the agreements parents reach about legal decision-making authority, the sharing of rights and privileges, and the schedule for parenting time. In Arizona, joint legal decision-making authority requires a written parenting plan that must be reviewed periodically and provides a way to resolve conflicts about decision-making authority and parenting time.
When choosing a plan, parents should think about the child’s relationship with each parent. It may benefit the child to change from one plan to another as the child gets older. If a parent has never been a part of a child's life or hasn’t had contact with the child for an extended period, parenting time should start slowly and gradually increase as the child adjusts and feels comfortable.