If you and your spouse have children and are getting a divorce in Georgia, you will need to file a Parenting Plan and should consider these five essentials for a successful Georgia Parenting Plan:
Don't Separate Tie-Breaking Authority
Make sure the primary physical custodian has tie breaking authority for education and extracurricular activities. In almost all cases in Georgia, Courts now require one parent to be named the primary physical custodian. Be careful not to separate final decision-making authority on education and extracurricular activities to the non-custodial parent. Doing so may create a situation where the non-custodial parent signs the children up for activities far from home that the custodial parent has to transport the children to or from, such as singing up children for piano lessons in Dunwoody when you reside in Marietta. Or it may give the non-custodial parent the right to select a private school that the custodial parent has to pay for the children to attend. To avoid both issues, make sure the primary physical custodian also has final decision making on all issues relating to education and extracurricular activities.
Birthdays Are for the Children
Georgia judges will not require children to spend time with each parent on their birthday and you shouldn't require it either. Your children's birthdays are for them, not you. Allow your children to alternate which parent they spend their birthday with each year. Children adapt well to dual birthday parties and even celebrations that are a few days before or after their actual birthday. When parents insist on splitting the children's birthday, the children often lose by not being able to fully enjoy the day with either parent or his or her friends.
Morality Clauses Need to be Tailored to Your Needs
Georgia courts will allow you to include a morality clause in your Parenting Plan if you are concerned about exposing your child to multiple partners. Multiple partners are confusing to children and tend to undermine stability in your children's lives as well as desensitize them to sexual mores. Your children need to be your focus when you are with them. If you don't want to face the risk that your ex may bring home a series of partners after the divorce, make sure you include language in the Parenting Plan that prohibits unmarried sexual partners from staying overnight when the children are present.
Be Careful with A Right of First Refusal
If you or your spouse request a right of first refusal be included in your Georgia Parenting Plan, make sure you understand the burden it will place on both of you. A right of first refusal will require you and your ex to offer each other parenting time if you cannot be with the children during your scheduled parenting time. In other words, if you have a four hour right of first refusal, anytime you plan to be away from the children for 4 or more hours, you have to call your ex ahead of time to give them the right to take the children during the time you will be away. This can result in a tremendous inconvenience and burden on you. For example, if your children plan to spend time with grandma and grandpa for more than 4 hours, you need to make sure you are not away from them for more than four hours at a time. If you really want to include a right of first refusal, consider a longer period of time, such as 8 hours or overnight, to make it easier on you and your children.
Avoid Daily Phone Calls
Don't overdo it with phone, Skype and social media access when the children are with the other parent. While it's very important to Georgia Judges that the children have consistent, open lines of communication with both parents, it can interfere with parenting time to have to stop what you are doing every day to call the other parent at a specified time. If every day contact is necessary and in most cases, it is not, make sure you include reasonable limitations, such as once a night before bedtime instead of a fixed time in every day. The “once a day before bedtime,” or better yet, “every other day before bedtime” schedule, will enable the children to get into a reasonable routine that is not disruptive of the custodial parent's time. Allowing the children to choose when to call the noncustodial parent instead of vice versa will make it possible for children and the custodial parent to carry out normal, everyday activities without constant interruptions from the noncustodial parent.
If you are in the process of negotiating a Parenting Plan, keep in mind these five essential tips to include in the Plan. While it may be tempting for you to prepare your own Parenting Plan, you are typically better off allowing a Georgia divorce lawyer to give you the benefit of his or her expertise and advice to help you avoid mistakes in drafting a Parenting Plan.