Traditionally, parenting plans have involved physical custody with visitation – where minor children resided with a “custodial parent” and saw a “visiting parent” on a regular basis. Recently, however, many courts have moved in the direction of defining parental rights in the context of a parenting plan, thus avoiding the emotionally charged labels of “custodial” and “visiting”. Establishing a parenting plan thus becomes a question of scheduling rather than of defining (either implicitly or explicitly) one parent as primary to the welfare of the children and the other as secondary; this shift in emphasis reflects the growing realization the children are more likely to thrive when both parents are actively involved in their lives.
Parenting plans can be as varied as the families which observe them. Although one size does not necessarily fit all, many plans involve minor children being with one parent during the school week, seeing the other parent on one or more midweek evenings, and spending alternating weekends with each parent. Other plans may vary significantly from this theme, depending on the work and other commitments of the parents and the needs and desires of the children. The determining factor is what is best for the children rather than what the parents want for themselves. For obvious reasons, the parenting arrangement observed by the family while intact can have a significant impact on the parenting plan adopted in a family law case, although it is subject to change both during the initial case and later, if there is a significant change in circumstances.