Planning For a Divorce With Children 

Divorce or separation can be stressful for anyone. This is especially true when there are children involved. Before filing for divorce, separation, or physically separating from your spouse, you may want to consider telling your children you plan to end your marriage. Doing so will allow you to seek resources to help make the experience less stressful for them. Read on to learn more about how to plan for a divorce with children.

Preparing Children for Divorce

Experts believe that having a frank conversation with children prior to separating from your spouse can help ease their anxieties. Often, children are aware that their parents are having marital conflicts. The first step in preparing children for your impeding divorce is to have an upfront conversation with both parents. If necessary, it may be advisable to call a family counsellor. Check out the State of California’s guide to separation and divorce for parents and children for additional resources.

Should You Discuss Child Custody & Visitation with Your Children? 

Discussing child custody and visitation with your children will depend on their maturity level and age. When a custody dispute ends up in court, the judge may ask your child (must be a teenager) their preference regarding visitation. Have a discussion with your child upfront before the court gets involved. This will ease your child’s stress level regarding your divorce.

Parenting Plans in California

A parenting plan is required in any divorce or separation action in California. The parents are encouraged to write up a mutually agreed upon plan, but if they cannot agree, they will be ordered to  attend parenting mediation sessions. If mediation fails to produce a plan that both parents agree upon, a judge can make custody and visitation decisions after a hearing. The judge will appoint a neutral party to do a custody evaluation. Parents are required to cooperate with the evaluator. At any time during the process, the parents may make an agreement and present a plan to the court.

Factors to Consider When Writing A Parenting Plan

An effective parenting plan will consider the children’s immediate needs and anticipate future needs and possible life changes. These include:

  • Vacations, holidays, birthdays, and other special events.
  • Vacations and holidays.
  • International travel.
  • What will happen if a parent is transferred to another location or decides to move.
  • What will happen when a child is ill or needs medical treatment.
  • What will happen if a child or parent becomes disabled.
  • What will happen if a child needs care after reaching the age of eighteen.

In some situations, limited or supervised visitation may be necessary.

Calculating Child Support

Which parent will pay child support and the amount of support to be paid may be agreed upon by the parents as part of their parenting plan, or it may be set by the court after considering all relevant factors. Some of these factors are:

  • The net disposable income of both parents, after taxes and other required deductions
  • The amount of time the children live with each parent.
  • Which parent will provide medical insurance for the children.
  • The needs of the children, including special need such as medical care, mental health care, or special education.

While child support obligations usually end when a child turns eighteen, there are circumstances in which a parent may agree or be ordered to pay support after the age of eighteen. These include:

  • When a child is a full-time high school student. The support obligation would then continue until the child turns nineteen or graduates.
  • When the parents agree to share the cost of college tuition or other post-secondary education, or when one parent agrees to pay such costs.
  • When the child is disabled and cannot support himself.

The State of California provides guidelines for drafting parenting plans and for calculating child support, but any parent should seek the advice of an experienced California family law attorney before drafting or signing any agreement.

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