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Parenting plans do not have to be set in stone

Divorced parents in California must have a parenting plan as part of their divorce agreement. Whether it is worked out during mediation or set by a family court judge, it will be a guide to tell parents how they can divide custody time and make important parenting decisions. The problem is, children's needs usually change over time, and the parenting plan may need to be updated to accommodate those changes.

An infant who is breastfeeding will need to spend a vast majority of their time with the mother. As a breastfeeding baby grows up, the baby may be able to spend more time away from the mother, and the father could have more custody time. A child's need for time with each parent may continue to change as the child grows up, depending on factors such as the child's school schedule, participation in extracurricular activities and the location of the child's friends.

In a book entitled "Two Homes, One Childhood: A Parenting Plan to Last a Lifetime", author Dr. Robert Emery advises divorced parents to forego a rigid custody schedule and opt for a flexible schedule that can adapt to the child's needs over time. Emery says that custody agreements that are arrived at through the court system tend to lock parents into set schedules that may not be age-appropriate for their children.

Divorced parents may be able to agree on a child custody agreement that works well for both them and their children. One way to do this is to engage in divorce mediation outside of court. With assistance from a neutral mediator, parents may be able to reach an agreement about custody issues while avoiding the time and expense of litigation.

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