If you and your spouse have decided to divorce, your child’s welfare and ability to adjust to this new phase of life are going to be a top priority.

A workable parenting plan will help you, the other parent and your child transition from the old family unit to a new relationship structure in the post-divorce era.

Legal and physical custody

California law speaks to both legal and physical child custody. Legal refers to the rights and responsibilities involved with making major decisions for a child, such as education, religious practices and medical care. Physical custody covers the actual care of the child and his or her physical location.

A parenting plan takes into account both levels of child custody and adds pertinent details that serve as a road map for you and your ex-spouse to follow. The interests of the child guide these details and help you continue to raise your children, even after divorce, as well as you can.

A written agreement

Also called a custody and visitation agreement, a parenting plan is a written document that addresses decision-making and time-sharing concerning your child following your divorce. Develop the plan based on the age, experience and abilities of your child.

Make sure to establish a routine as a major element, because children thrive on routine. Include information about transportation (how the child will travel between residences) and how you and the other parent will handle communicating about the events in your child’s life.

Add information about visitation on weekends, on holidays and during the summer. There are no hard-and-fast rules about preparing a parenting plan, but the more details you can include, the better.

A workable plan

Once you and your spouse develop, sign, and file your parenting plan, the judge will also sign it and it becomes a court order after which the plan goes on file with the court.

Keep in mind that changes happen in life and as a result, your parenting plan may require modification at some point. Until then, the plan, as built around the interests of your child, should meet his or her needs and provide a comforting sense of security in a post-divorce world.