Divorce can be a stressful experience, especially when children are involved. Learn how to create a solid parenting plan that works for both parties.

Divorce rates are on the decline, but 39% of marriages will still end in divorce.

If you’re facing a divorce, you’re no doubt entering one of the most stressful events of your life. If you have children, your worries are compounded.

Who will get custody of the kids? How can you create structure in their lives while your own life is unraveling? Most importantly, how can you ensure your kids receive the love and attention they need?

Many kids experience difficulties after a divorce, including behavioral problems and poor academic performance. But that doesn’t have to be the case with your children. The key lies in creating (and executing) a successful parenting plan.

What is a parenting plan? Why is it so important? And how can you create one that works for your family’s unique circumstances?

In this post, we’ll discuss those questions and more. Read on to learn how to write a parenting plan for court and your own personal use.

What Is a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a legal document that outlines how you and your ex will care for your children after the divorce. It is generally required by the family court as part of the divorce process.

The plan should include every major aspect of your kids’ lives, including custody, visitation, and communication methods. (We’ll discuss this in more detail later).

If possible, you and your ex should be the ones to create the parenting plan, since you know your kids and your circumstances best. If you aren’t able to reach an agreement, the court may take steps to create a plan for you or suggest the services of a family law attorney.

What Should I Know Before Creating a Parenting Plan?

Although a parenting plan is a legal document, it doesn’t need to include technical or legal jargon. What it should include is plenty of details outlining how you and your ex will handle your responsibilities.

The court wants to see that your plan will provide a safe, stable, and loving environment for your kids. They want the assurance that your children’s physical and emotional needs will continue to be met.

Of course, your circumstances are different than any other couple in the midst of a divorce. A parenting plan template is a great place to start, but you need to customize it to fit the unique needs of your family.

Remember: The parenting plan is for the benefit of your kids, not yourself. You need to be willing to make compromises and be accommodating to whatever is in your kids’ best interests.

The most common mistake couples make is writing a plan that’s too vague. Include every detail and scenario you can think of, such as who will pay for medical expenses and what happens if one or both parents decide to relocate. You’ll also want to explain how you’ll resolve disagreements and if your kids are allowed to travel out-of-state or abroad.

When reviewing your plan, the court will evaluate:

  • Each parent’s health and ability to provide for their kids
  • Your children’s age and maturity level
  • Proximity to the extended family
  • Proximity to established schools or religious organizations
  • Any plans for one or both parents to relocate
  • Everyone’s preferences on custody arrangements (each parent and each child)
  • Any past or present legal misconduct

If possible, it’s best to work on this plan together. If you can’t reach an agreement, each parent may submit their own plan to the court for consideration and approval.

Parenting Plan Template: What to Include

Now that you’ve got an overview of the plan, let’s discuss specific items you should include.

1. Living Arrangements & Scheduling

This is the basis for your plan, as it outlines how each parent will physically provide for the children.

Will your kids live primarily in one residence or divide their time evenly between both of you? Who is responsible for pickup and drop-off? Will you bring your children’s belongings back and forth, or will your kids have two sets of most items?

What about daycare or babysitting arrangements? How will each parent communicate with their children when they’re visiting the other? When and where will the children spend time with their friends, and who will transport them to events such as parties or after-school activities?

You should also discuss how you’ll handle any changes or disruptions to the normal schedule. What if it’s necessary to make a change due to illness, special occasions, or an unforeseen event? How much notice will you give, and will there be make-up time for missed visitation?

2. Holidays, Vacations, & Events

Will your kids spend certain holidays with the same parent each year? Or will you alternate between households?

Create a plan for:

  • Religious holidays
  • Secular holidays
  • School breaks
  • Summer vacation
  • Birthdays
  • Mother’s Day
  • Father’s Day
  • Graduation
  • Weddings and funerals

Again, include as many details as possible, including transportation, length of stay, or any plans to “split” the time over certain holidays.

3. Health Matters

Who will provide medical and dental insurance (if any) for the children? How will you make decisions about routine or emergency treatments?

What about arrangements for routine checkups or dentist visits? Who will take the kids to these appointments? Who will take time off work and stay home if one of the children gets sick?

Will each of you have access to your children’s medical records? What about arranging for any special needs like eyeglasses, speech therapy, or orthodontia? How will you make decisions that are in your child’s best interest?

4. School & Extra-Curriculars

Where will your children attend school? Will they enroll in a special program or require tutoring after hours?

What about parent-teacher conferences or other school events? Who will attend? Who will pay for school trips, lunches, or other related expenses?

What if your child must be absent for any reason? Can either parent take the child out of school for the day? What circumstances are allowable (or not) for the child to miss school?

If your child plays sports or belongs to an after-school club, who will handle transportation arrangements and associated costs? Will both of you attend games or competitions?

5. Religion & Culture

Will your household include any religious instruction or activities? Will your kids accompany you to church or other religious services? How will you make these decisions?

What about relevant cultural events and activities? If you live in a bilingual household, what will be the primary language spoken at home? Will your children be instructed in a second or third language?

Consider the extended family too, such as grandparents. How often and when will they visit, and who will be there during the visits? How can the extended family communicate with your children?

What about everyday lifestyle and discipline? What rules will be in place for bedtime, allowance, homework, dating, and other expectations?

6. Communication Between Parents

How will you and your ex communicate after the divorce is finalized? Over the phone, by email, in person?

How will you keep track of your children’s schedules? Will there be a written or virtual calendar available where you can access and add relevant events?

How much notice will you give in the event of travel plans, schedule changes, or other disruptions? How often will you communicate about your children? What about emergencies—how will you get in contact with each other?

Other Factors to Consider

Your divorce may be contentious, but try to take a step back and be reasonable when it comes to your kids. You may no longer love your ex, but your kids likely still do.

Focus on creating a plan that will help them maintain a strong relationship with each of you. If they’re old enough, consider their preferences about who they’ll live with and how they’ll spend time with each of you.

If you have legitimate concerns about your ex’s ability to care for the children, put it in writing. You may not agree with certain aspects of their parenting style, but this is different than concerns over binge drinking or drug use.

Most of all, avoid putting your kids in the middle of your divorce. Assure them of your continued love and support during and after the process. Respect their needs by enjoying the time they’re with you and avoid criticizing what your ex chooses to do.

Do You Need Help With Your Parenting Plan?

Some couples are able to sit down and create an effective parenting plan on their own.

But what if the relationship is strained and civil communication is difficult (or impossible)? This is where a lawyer experienced in family law and child custody can help.

Your divorce is undoubtedly stressful, but making a parenting plan doesn’t have to be. It just takes time and consideration to decide what will work for you and your ex—and what is ultimately best for your children.

Are you going through a divorce in the Orlando area? Don’t go it alone.

We can help with all aspects of the divorce process, including assistance with your parenting plan. Contact our law office today with any questions or concerns.

While your divorce decree is a court order you and your spouse must act in accordance with, violations can occur that will require steps to enforce.

Have you or someone you know recently been through a divorce? If so, you know that things can get ugly – quick.

Even for couples with the best intentions, legal separations are both emotionally and financially draining.

But when the dust settles and all the matrimonial baggage is decided, you’re left with what’s known as a divorce decree.

A divorce decree is the court’s final ruling that officially and legally terminates the marriage. The decree summarizes what both parties have agreed to and what they’re entitled to.

You can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Or can you?

What happens when your ex refuses to abide by the judgments listed in the divorce decree? What are your legal rights and what action can you take?

Keep reading to learn how to enforce a divorce decree when your ex-partner won’t comply.

A Divorce Decree is a Legal Document

Not adhering to the guidelines of a divorce decree is a crime. Whether or not you wanted to agree to it, you did. And you’re now legally bound to uphold whatever ruling’s it states.

The same goes for your ex. If he/she chooses not to comply with the divorce decree arrangements, you can take legal action. The decree is enforceable in court, which means your ex will be held liable for noncompliance.

The problem is, getting justice can be a lengthy, expensive process.

The Steps You Need to Take

Before you call your ex in a rage or show up at their front door, take a deep breath. If you want to stay in the good graces of the judge and courts, it’s best you take the right legal pathway to justice.

That means following the below steps, in order.

Contact the Court System

The first order of business when enforcing a divorce decree is to contact the justice system. Be sure to notify the courthouse in the county where you received the divorce decree.

The best point of contact is the judge’s clerk since you can’t speak directly to the judge. If the judge’s clerk is unavailable, the next best person to speak with is the court clerk or an office member.

Be specific about which part of the decree your spouse is violating. The type of divorce decree violation will determine your next legal recourse.

Common violations include refusal to pay a debt, child support or alimony, and refusal to sell marital property, including real estate.

File a Motion of Contempt

You’ve probably heard the term “contempt of court” before but do you know what it means?

The most basic definition is failing to satisfy a court order. Since a divorce decree is a court order, your ex’s refusal to comply places them in contempt of court.

It’s now your job to file a motion of contempt. This is also known as a motion for enforcement. The court officer you speak to will guide you on which avenue to take. They might also provide you with the necessary forms.

Be sure to include all pertinent information on the documents including a copy of the divorce decree and a docket or case number. This will help expedite the process.

Show Up to Court on the Scheduled Day and Time

The quickest way to lose a case is not showing up for court on your scheduled day and time. Once you receive your scheduled court date, make sure you’re present and prepared for the court proceedings. This is your chance to present your case to the judge.

One thing to keep in mind on your court date is that you may not get exactly what you’re asking for. Don’t get your hopes up.

In most cases, the judge will issue a warning to your ex-spouse – giving them the opportunity to make right on their end of the agreement. The judge will also set a deadline that your spouse needs to meet. He/She is required to perform what the decree orders them to do by a specific date.

Start the Process All Over Again

In a perfect world, a warning from the judge and extended timeframe is enough to convince your ex-partner to do the right thing. But that’s not always the case.

If your ex still refuses to comply with the divorce decree – even after being ordered by the judge – you’ll be forced to start the process all over again by filing another motion.

You already know the right steps to take. After filling out the motion paperwork, be sure to attach not only a copy of the divorce decree but also the most recent court order that your spouse has violated.

If you end up back in court, chances are the judge will now rule in your favor and show your noncompliant ex much less sympathy. The judge may even order sanctions, requiring your ex to pay your court costs. In more serious cases, your ex might even face jail time for contempt of court.

Depending on the violations, the judge can use several different methods to help make you whole again. If your ex owes you money, the judge can issue a lien against their property or force them to use their tax refunds to pay their debts.

If children and visitation are involved, visitation may be restricted or granted based on who’s in contempt.

Reasons to Contact the Courts

Before you get the court system involved, make sure that your ex is actually committing a crime. Carefully look over the divorce decree to determine the rules and guidelines your ex is bound to.

Here are a few common ways that people violate divorce decrees.

Refusal to Pay Debts

Money, money, money. In most cases, divorce decree violations are connected to money and one party refusing to pay the agreed-upon debt.

Some judges show special leniency to those who recently lost their jobs. As long as the individual shows an effort to find employment, the judge will rarely enforce jail time.

But that doesn’t help you if your ex’s inability to pay debt puts you in your own financial pickle.

There are a few techniques in place to protect your rights and ensure that your ex makes good on their financial obligations. Some especially stubborn and vindictive individuals would rather face jail time than pay their ex a single dime.

In these cases, the judge may decide to seize your ex’s property as collateral. This is a slightly more complicated legal battle and might require an experienced attorney.

This process involves a writ of attachment issued by the court. This permits that any property owned by the noncompliant party can be seized and used to pay off outstanding debts.

Property can be anything from personal items to physical property like a home or piece of land. In this situation, the court will appoint a third-party recipient and that person will take custody of the land. They’re responsible for selling it and then paying you the owed amount.

Selling the family home is another point of contention in many divorces. If both you and your ex are listed on the title and/or mortgage, you both need to agree to list the home for sale.

In some cases, one party is too emotionally attached to comply with this part of the decree. But if both parties are financially dependent on the sale of the house, it must be done.

Similar to paying off debt, the judge will issue an agent or receiver to handle the sale of the home and divvy up the money accordingly.

These proceedings don’t happen without a little leg-work on your end. You’re responsible for proving that you tried, on numerous occasions, to convince your ex to pay their debts or sell the home prior to filing a motion of contempt. This could include proof of communication in the form of letters, emails, or text messages.

The court wants to see that you made an effort to resolve the issue on your own before asking them to intervene.

Failure to Properly Divide Retirement Accounts

Another common item listed in many divorce decrees is retirement accounts belonging to both parties.

Retirement accounts, including 401k plans, are often divided in the divorce decree. If your ex-spouse fails to give you half of the retirement funds, you can take legal action.

One reason why a traditional motion of contempt might not be the best approach is that if your ex spends all the money before you get a court date, they’re no longer obligated to pay. After all, half of zero is zero.

When dealing with retirement and other savings accounts, you need to prepare a QDRO or Qualified Domestic Relations Order. This will protect your rights to the money and prevent your ex from spending it. The QDRO informs the plan administrator how the retirement fund should be divided as outlined in the divorce decree.

What to Do When Your Ex Won’t Play Nice

Divorces rarely proceed without any complications or hurdles. Even after the divorce decree is drafted, trouble can still lurk.

If your ex-partner decides not to follow the rules and judgments of the court, you can enforce a motion of contempt and have your case heard. Just be sure to make a valid attempt to solve the issue directly with your ex before involving the courts.

Document any exchanges between you and your ex as proof of your efforts.

Divorce can be ugly – but it doesn’t have to be when you have a qualified attorney on your side.

Contact one of our professionals today and let us help your legal case run smoothly.