The Georgia Parenting Plan

O.C.G.A. section 19-9-1 requires that, in all cases in which the custody of any child is at issue, other than a TPO action, each parent shall prepare a parenting plan, or the parties may jointly submit a parenting plan.  A parenting plan is required for any final hearing in a divorce or modification case where custody is at issue and may, in the judge’s discretion, be required for temporary hearings.

There are certain statutory requirements for the parenting plan that commonly are not incorporated into the custody provisions of a typical settlement agreement.

Pursuant to O.C.G.A. 19-9-1(b)(1), unless otherwise ordered by the judge, a parenting plan shall include the following, at a minimum:

(A) A recognition that a close and continuing parent-child relationship and continuity in the child's life will be in the child's best interest;

(B) A recognition that the child's needs will change and grow as the child matures and demonstrate that the parents will make an effort to parent that takes this issue into account so that future modifications to the parenting plan are minimized;

(C) A recognition that a parent with physical custody will make day-to-day decisions and emergency decisions while the child is residing with such parent; and

(D) That both parents will have access to all of the child's records and information, including, but not limited to, education, health, health insurance, extracurricular activities, and religious communications.

(2) Unless otherwise ordered by the judge, or agreed upon by the parties, a parenting plan shall include, but not be limited to:

(A) Where and when a child will be in each parent's physical care, designating where the child will spend each day of the year;

(B) How holidays, birthdays, vacations, school breaks, and other special occasions will be spent with each parent including the time of day that each event will begin and end;

(C) Transportation arrangements including how the child will be exchanged between the parents, the location of the exchange, how the transportation costs will be paid, and any other matter relating to the child spending time with each parent;

(D) Whether supervision will be needed for any parenting time and, if so, the particulars of the supervision;

(E) An allocation of decision-making authority to one or both of the parents with regard to the child's education, health, extracurricular activities, and religious upbringing, and if the parents agree the matters should be jointly decided, how to resolve a situation in which the parents disagree on resolution; and

(F) What, if any, limitations will exist while one parent has physical custody of the child in terms of the other parent contacting the child and the other parent's right to access education, health, extracurricular activity, and religious information regarding the child.

If the parents are serving in the military, there are additional requirements.  Before any hearing, the attorney and client should go over the proposed parenting plan carefully and be prepared to make cogent arguments why the proposed parenting plan should be adopted and why it's adoption is in the children's best interest.

When preparing a settlement agreement Atlanta Parenting Attorney Russell Hippe usually includes all custody and visitation terms of the settlement in an attached Parenting Plan to avoid any redundancy or confusion. As noted, if your case is going to a temporary hearing or trial, you parenting plan should be prepared well in advance, tendered into evidence, and proposed for adoption. You need to be able to fully support why you are requesting the plan and why this plan, as opposed to your spouses', is in the child’s or children's best interest. Mr. Hippe always covers this carefully with his clients in advance of any hearing or final trial.

A sample parenting plan is located in the Uniform Superior Court Rules, specifically rule 24.10.  This form is merely a sample.  The parties are free to edit and add or include additional custody terms.