Missouri Proposed Parenting Plans Help Smooth Divorce Tensions

Divorcing couples often have a hard time working together. However, for couples with kids, a collaborative attitude can make a world of difference in ensuring that children are able to lead happy, healthy lives after their parents have separated.

When divorcing parents can't figure out child custody on their own, that decision is left to the courts. Judges try hard to figure out an arrangement that is in the best interests of the child, but they don't know the family well and might not always be able to deliver the best result.

It is for this reason that Missouri requires all divorcing couples with minor children to submit a proposed parenting plan when they file for divorce.

The proposed parenting plan requires the couple to sit down together and figure out the ideal environment for their children as it relates to the following areas:

  • Custody and parenting time: Who will have legal and physical custody of the children? Will one parent be principally responsible for the children, or will both share in the duties equally?
  • Primary residence: Where will the children live? Even in cases of joint custody, the parents must designate a primary address for mailing and schooling purposes.
  • Parenting time: The couple is required to complete a parenting time schedule for each parent - for example: "the children will stay with the father from 5:00 p.m. Friday to 7:00 p.m. Sunday"
  • Exchanges: The couple must specify where and when the children will be picked up or dropped off at the start and end of the scheduled parenting times.
  • Transportation: The couple must also specify how the children will be transported between each parent's home, and who will pay for the transportation. This is especially important when the parents live far away from each other.
  • Holidays: Where will the children spend holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and Fourth of July? The form allows parents to trade off even and odd years.
  • Vacations: Which parent will have custody of the children during school vacations including winter, spring, summer and Thanksgiving breaks?

In addition to these topics, the parents must figure out a financial plan to support the children. Along with day-to-day costs, the parents must also determine who will pay for larger expenses such as braces, medical care, education, music lessons or sports equipment.

The parents must also agree on how to communicate about issues relating to the children and how they will handle any modifications to the parenting plan or disagreements about its interpretation.

Working together increases the odds that both parents will be happy with the outcome. It also prevents children from becoming pawns in an unhappy divorce. If you're considering divorce, it may be wise to seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the process.