Divorce is a difficult process for children. Aside from seeing their parents separate, some end up as pawns in ongoing custody disputes. Not only is a battle over child custody costly and time-consuming for parents, it can be a traumatizing experience for children. This is why many California parents prefer to create a parenting plan outside of court.
A parenting plan is an agreement between two parents regarding child custody. This agreement is negotiated outside of court, usually through some type of alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation. A judge will still need to approve the final version of the plan, but this usually is not a problem as long as the parents have addressed all necessary points. The judge will also make sure that the plan was fairly negotiated before giving approval.
Parenting plans address the same factors as court-ordered child custody plans. Parents will agree on physical custody, legal custody, holiday and school break schedules, how to handle disputes and other issues that parents may feel compelled to include. This ability to customize a parenting plan usually means that it will specifically fit a child's unique needs.
Since California parents know their children better than anyone else, the ability to create a parenting plan outside of court is often extremely appealing. When done with the child's best interests in mind, the process is usually successful. However, this requires a certain level of civility between divorcing parents. In situations where parents feel that they are unable to work amicably together, it may be better to leave child custody matters up to a judge.