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Equal time or a well-constructed parenting plan?

Child custody is almost always a difficult topic in a Missouri family court. After all, what is the "best interests" of the child? Each parent may have an idea, but given the environment of a divorce, they may not coincide. And the judge has only the information provided by the parties to base his or her opinion.

While studies suggest that shared parenting can benefit a child in some cases, it is difficult to extrapolate that it will work well in all cases. There has been a movement to require that all child custody be presumptively 50/50, and North Dakota voters just rejected such a ballot initiative.

For parents who desire a shared child custody role post divorce, a good way to demonstrate the viability of such an agreement is to create a parenting plan. In Missouri, as many states, hard and fast custody rules have been changed to require parents to develop a parenting plan.

For parents who desire a shared child custody role post divorce, a good way to demonstrate the viability of such an agreement is to create a parenting plan. In Missouri, as many states, traditional custody rules have been changed to require parents to develop a parenting plan.

The Missouri courts provide a 22-page form that outlines all of the important areas of such a plan, from the child's weekly schedule to vacations, holidays, decision making and dispute resolution procedures.

And parents can add to the form, to specify additional items that may be relevant. The form can serve as a good exercise for the parents to think through how their world will change after a divorce.

It can help set proper expectations, which may lessen the opportunities for conflict and improve the relationship of the parents by providing a neutral framework to view the other parent as a partner in raising their children, in spite of their no longer being married.

The Washington Post, "No, children should not spend equal time with their divorced parents," J.Herbie DiFonzo, November 14, 2014

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