Reaching a decision on child custody is no small achievement, whether that decision is the result of mediation or litigation. However, it is only the first step of raising a child with but separately from another parent. After this decision comes the process of putting that plan into place and adjusting to the changes that come with it.

As difficult as this can be, parents should understand the guidance that comes from a custody order. This document provides critical direction that can make it easier to understand boundaries and expectations. Considering how valuable this document can be, divorcing parents should know what these orders typically include.

Basic elements of a custody and parenting plan

These legal documents primarily focus on parenting time. As this article on the State Court Administrative Office’s website notes, this includes detailing the regular custody schedule as well as which parent will have custody during holidays and school breaks.

A plan will also assign parents legal decision-making rights. Parents who have legal custody have the right to make important decisions related to the child, from medical care and education to religion and day-to-day matters.

Another element that people often have in their plan is a guideline for maintaining communication between children and parents. This guideline may specify how frequently children can be in contact with one parent while in the care of another parent.

Other provisions to consider

There may be reason to include special provisions in a parenting time arrangement under certain circumstances. For instance, in situations involving long-distance parenting time, additional clarifications and allowances may be necessary. And if the child is very young, accommodations for nursing patterns may need to be in place.

Ensuring you have a solid plan in place

Custody orders provide crucial guidance as parents adjust to dividing parenting time, so it is important that they reflect a child’s needs and the wishes of the parents. It is also essential that parents comply with the orders, as there could be serious penalties for non-compliance. Should you have questions or concerns about creating or enforcing a custody order, you can consult an attorney.