A parenting plan is an essential document that needs to be submitted to the court before any decisions are made concerning the care and custody of your child during a divorce or a parental rights and responsibilities case. It sets the groundwork for the court’s final order and becomes an integral part of it. Ideally, both parents collaborate to create a plan that they mutually agree upon. However, if an agreement cannot be reached, each parent will draft their own proposed plan, and the court will either approve one or create one on its own. If a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is involved in your case, they will also make a proposal.
The New Hampshire Court has implemented a rule that mandates all parenting plans to include nine sections, labeled A through I. All child-related issues should be addressed within these nine sections. The provided sample template adheres to this court rule by incorporating sections A through I.
The primary objective of a parenting plan is to promote positive family relationships, encourage cooperative parenting for the benefit of the children, and ensure the active involvement of both parents in their child’s life. Recognizing that a positive relationship between children and both parents is in the best interest of the children, it is expected that parents will always prioritize decisions that serve the child’s well-being, even if it conflicts with their own interests.
These instructions will guide you through the process of completing the form available on the court’s website in PDF format, called the Parenting Plan form.
Completing the Form
Selecting the File Creation Method and Providing Your Details
Choose the box that accurately describes how the plan was created: either collaboratively by both parents, with mutual agreement on its terms, or individually due to an inability to reach an agreement. Enter your name on the line that states “name of the parent or party making the proposal.”
If you have a very young child, it might be beneficial to draft an addendum to address specific circumstances concerning preschool-aged children. Although not required, an addendum allows you to outline conditions that will remain in effect until your child reaches an older age. For more details, refer to the appendix.
Select the appropriate box that corresponds to the purpose of the plan: whether it is meant to be a Temporary Order, a Final or Permanent Order, or is intended to replace an existing order.
List the name(s), date(s) of birth, and gender of the child to whom this plan applies.
Allocating Decision-Making Responsibility
- Decision-making Responsibility: This section refers to the obligation of making decisions regarding your child’s education, religion, medical care, activities, and more. Determine whether you and the other parent can collaborate on these matters. If you believe that cooperation is not possible or that the other parent cannot act in the child’s best interest due to specific reasons, you must request the court to grant you these responsibilities.
Addressing Residential Responsibilities
- Residential Responsibilities: Formerly known as physical custody, this section outlines the living arrangements for the child. You will propose a schedule detailing when and where the child will reside. Consider including holidays, school vacations, and other relevant factors. If you believe supervised contact between the child and the other parent is necessary, you can request it here. Keep in mind that courts usually order supervised contact only if there are valid reasons to believe that unsupervised contact may jeopardize the child’s safety. The expectation is that supervised contact is temporary, with a gradual increase in time and eventual elimination of supervision. Some reasons that may warrant supervised contact include a history of domestic violence, abuse, neglect, or the risk of the child being removed from the state.
Determining Legal Residence for School Attendance
- Legal Residence of the Child for School Attendance: If the child spends an equal amount of time with both parents, it is crucial to specify the child’s legal residence for school-related purposes. This becomes particularly significant when either parent plans to relocate, as it helps resolve potential disputes regarding the child’s home after the move.
Managing Transportation and Exchange of the Child(ren)
- Transportation and Exchange of the Child(ren): In this section, you will determine the responsibility for transporting the child to and from each parent’s residence and specify any associated costs. If required, you can also designate a neutral location for the exchange of the child.
Ensuring Information Sharing and Access
- Information Sharing and Access, Including Telephone and Electronic Access: This section covers critical provisions, especially in cases where there is animosity or hostility between the parents. Addressing issues related to information sharing, telephone access, and electronic access can help prevent conflicts and ensure a smooth co-parenting experience.
Facilitating Relocation of a Child’s Residence
- Relocation of a Residence of a Child: This section provides an opportunity to consider the process that will be followed if either you or the other parent plans to move a significant distance while the parenting plan is in effect.
Establishing a Procedure for Plan Review and Adjustment
- Procedure for Review and Adjustment of Parenting Plan: Life changes occur for everyone, including children. Between the court order and your child’s adulthood, there may be a need to modify certain aspects of the plan. This section allows you to contemplate and plan how these changes should be implemented.
Resolving Disputes Amicably
- Methods for Resolving Disputes: Disputes are an unfortunate reality for many families. This section enables you to think through the process of resolving disagreements before they arise, avoiding unnecessary conflicts.
Addressing Unique Circumstances
- Other: Every family has unique circumstances that are important to them. This final section provides an opportunity for you to address any specific issues that are not covered elsewhere in the plan but hold significance for you, the other parent, or the child.
Before submitting the completed plan to the court, ensure that you have signed it and had your signature witnessed. If both parents agree on the plan, both should sign it.
If there is a Guardian ad Litem involved in your case, make sure to provide them with a copy of the plan. If you have reached an agreement, you should request the GAL’s signature. In the event that you and the other parent agree, but the GAL does not, submit the plan to the court and let the judge decide whether or not to approve it.
For more information and access to the Parenting Plan form, visit Thumbuddy To Love. As experts in the field, Thumbuddy To Love provides comprehensive resources to support you through the process of creating a parenting plan that best suits your child’s needs.