Written By: Lisa Fantone
A Shared Parenting Plan, also known as “SPP,” is a detailed document which addresses the many different areas of care for the children whose parents are divorcing. Contrary to common belief, it is not simply a 50/50 visitation or “possessory time” plan.
The SPP is typically 20-25 pages in length, with the first 5 pages containing standard language discussing the parents’ commitment to the plan and the rights the children have, one of which is the right to express love for each parent without having to hide it or fear the disapproval of either parent.
The next section deals with parenting times. Some divorcing couples create a plan workable for them and their children, which would seem crazy to others not living that life. Other couples rely on Court suggestions to determine residential periods for the kids. Also decided are holiday and vacation times, and again, parents can design their own schedule or adopt the Court-suggested schedule. A plan should be crafted in such a way that a family’s unique needs are addressed.
Decision-making is the next section, and this takes into consideration everything from medical issues to religious upbringing to extracurricular activities. Sometimes, parents will add in language about body piercing or body art, sometimes social media is discussed. Obviously, these are “hot button” issues for some people, reflective of our current culture. This section generally puts in place a requirement that parents consult with each other on minor issues, but major issues are permanently decided in this section and sometimes marked as “not modifiable in the future.”
Child support, including health insurance and tax exemption status, is the next subject. Shared Parenting rules, such as how to cancel parenting time, transportation expectations and how clothing will be provided, are spelled out clearly in this section.
Our firm normally adds the suggestion of Mediation as the last section of the plan. This requires parents to work through future problems and differences surrounding their children with a Mediator, and not through the Court. Mediation can reduce stress, which is beneficial to everyone. Motions and other court actions only cause stress for most people and can at times completely cloud judgment.
The best SPP is the plan that is well thought-out and considerate of the unique needs of the children and the parent, as well as everyone’s schedules. This paves the way for the mother and father to co-parent and communicate in such a way that the need to revisit and review the plan for its terms becomes completely unnecessary.