If you have decided that divorce is inevitable, and you have minor children that will be impacted by that decision, it is in everyone’s best interest to try and make the legal process that follows as amicable as possible. If you and your spouse have already agreed on the major issues involving the children, the State of Tennessee requires those decisions to be included in a Parenting Plan that the parties must submit to the court for approval. While there is no legal requirement that you retain an attorney to assist you with the divorce in general, or the Parenting Plan in particular, a Murfreesboro child custody attorney explains some of the benefits to working with an attorney on your Parenting Plan instead of trying to go it alone.
Tennessee Divorce Basics
The divorce process begins when one party files a petition or complaint for divorce. That original document provides the court with basic information about the marriage and asks the court to dissolve the marriage. The Petitioner (the person who files for divorce) must serve the petition on the Respondent (the other spouse) who then has a statutory period of time within which to file a written Answer to the complaint. If no Answer is filed, the Petitioner may ask for a default judgment. If an Answer is filed, the litigation of the divorce begins. At that point, the divorce can be uncontested, meaning the parties have resolved all issues in the divorce, or contested, meaning the parties are unable to resolve at least one issue. One of the most common reasons for a divorce to be contested is the inability to agree on issues related to the minor children of the marriage.
What Is a Parenting Plan?
Like many other states, the State of Tennessee has officially declared that it is in the best interest of the child of a marriage to continue to have the affection and support of both parents after a divorce. To help ensures that this happens, a Parenting Plan must be developed and approved by the court. The Parenting Plan must contain information about how the parents plan to handle basic parenting issues after the divorce, such as:
- Who will be the primary residential parent (who will the child live with the majority of the time?)
- What will the parenting time (visitation) schedule be with the non-residential parent?
- Who will pay child support and how much will the support be?
- Who will be responsible for the child’s medical insurance?
- How will the non-residential parent communicate with the child post-divorce?
- How will the parents communicate with each other after the divorce?
- How will the parents resolve problems that crop up in the future?
When it works as intended, a Parenting Plan acts as a specialized roadmap for the parents to follow post-divorce. If the parents are able to agree on all of the major issues that should be covered in the Parenting Plan, those agreements are reduced to writing and submitted to the court for approval. If the parents cannot agree on the decisions that must be made in the Parenting Plan, the court will be forced to make those decisions and effectively create the Parenting Plan itself.
Do I Really Need a Lawyer to Help with Our Parenting Plan?
If you are going through a divorce that appears to be amicable, and you believe you have ironed out the terms of your Parenting Plan, do you really need an attorney? Ultimately, it is your decision whether to work with an attorney or not; however, it is in your best interest to do so for several reasons. First and foremost, you need to be certain that your rights are protected and that the plan you agree to is in your child’s best interest and is favorable to you. In addition, you should at least have an attorney review the plan to ensure that you have addressed all the issues that should be covered to prevent a return trip to court in the near future. All too often a parent agrees to the terms of a Parenting Plan just to get the divorce over with, only to realize down the road that the plan doesn’t address an important issue. While a Parenting Plan can be modified, judges are reluctant to do so if the plan was recently approved, meaning you could be stuck with a plan that is vague or unfavorable to you for some time to come. Working with an experienced attorney can prevent such an outcome.
Contact a Murfreesboro Child Custody Attorney
If you are negotiating a Parenting Plan in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Murfreesboro child custody attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.