Louisiana law requires divorcing parents with minor children to prepare a parenting plan and obtain court approval of the plan before the judgment of divorce can be entered. If the parties fail to submit a joint parenting plan or if the plan submitted by the parties is inadequate, the court will devise its own plan based upon the best interests of the child.
A court-devised plan becomes effective with the issuance of a joint custody implementation order by the court. Unfortunately, many parents do not want a judge to decide how often and when they will be allowed to visit their child. The best way to avoid this result is to prepare a joint parenting plan that is acceptable to both parents.
A successful joint parenting plan should address a number of issues, including a custody and visitation time schedule, where the child will live and which parent has the right to make decisions about the child's education, health care and general welfare. The plan should provide specific provisions about the duty of each parent to communicate with the other parent about the child's welfare. A parenting plan can also make provisions for attending public or private school, parental communication and the means of resolving parental disputes and revising or amending the plan.
The plan must also satisfactorily address the best interests of the child. In reviewing the plan, the court will consider the love, affection and emotional ties between each parent and the child. The court will evaluate the ability of each parent to provide love, affection and support to the child. In some families, one or both parents may have physical or mental impairments that will limit their ability to be competent parents. A parenting plan should anticipate such problems.
If the parents are unable to draft a plan that the court deems satisfactory, the judge may order the parents to attend divorce mediation or a seminar on parenting. The key to drafting an acceptable parenting plan is to read and understand the legislative definition of the best interests of the child.