A Parenting Plan is a detailed, cooperative approach to divorced parents raising their children. To be effective, it should be detailed enough so that each parent realizes their rights, duties and responsibilities. Most importantly, it must be customized as much as possible to accommodate both parents’ work schedules and lifestyles. Each parent has an equal right to the custody of their children, absent any drug abuse, violence, or danger to the children. We believe that a parent should not have to “visit” his/her own children, but have a "custodial period" with their children. We also believe that the primary parent should not have to approve the condition for the non-custodial parent in order to exercise their custodial period/visitation. A Parenting Plan is a comprehensive and detailed framework, or map, detailing the rights and responsibilities of both parents in the raising of their children. Attorneys work with their client to develop a detailed plan to present to the other party or the other party’s attorney. A Parenting Plan includes some general understandings which reflect the policy that states each party should get together to communicate for the sake of their children. The first portion of each Parenting Plan involves decision making authority. The most important section of the parenting plan concerns physical custody that includes not only holidays and summer vacations, but also special conditions, should the parent be working shift work or on a rotational schedule, this is the area where the schedule is set forth so there is no confusions as to who has the custodial time with the children at any given time.
WHAT HAPPENS IF COMMUNICATION BREAKS DOWN BETWEEN MY FORMER SPOUSE AND I?
Communication does break down when not all of the conflicts were not resolved by the parents at the time of the separation. In these cases, many problems can be solved by the parties scheduling or having their attorneys schedule a mediation conference in order to iron out their differences. If mediation fails, either party can then retain an attorney to file the appropriate papers to return to court. The court will attempt to resolve the problems if the parties are unable to agree. If one parent is bent on revenge or is unwilling to resolve the problems, the complaining parent can file what is called a “Motion for Contempt”. This could involve both civil sanctions such as the payment of money or could involve criminal sanctions, such as fine or jail time. Contempt could include failure to abide by the custody order, nonpayment of support or physical violence. In order for the complaining party to be successful in a contempt proceeding, that party must prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt”, the same as in a criminal case. A child custody or visitation order must be very specific so that the court can verify contempt for violations of those orders. We therefore urge you to make all of your custody and visitation orders made as specific as possible in order to be enforceable in a court of law, should there be any problems of noncompliance.
CAN MY FORMER SPOUSE REFUSE ME VISITATION RIGHTS?
A custodial parent is not entitled to refuse visitation for any reason other than the safety or security of the children. If the visiting spouse turns up in a drugged, drunken or agitated condition, denial of visitation would be considered reasonable. However, excuses such as “Johnny is too sick” or “Sue does not want to see you” would often not be legitimate reasons and would entitle the complaining party to return to court to seek relief.
If you have had problems with visitation orders, you are urged to seek a competent and experienced Family Law Attorney.
FORMS FOR WEST VIRGINIA FAMILY COURT PROCEEDINGS CAN BE FOUND HERE.