"Specific" Parenting Plan in Divorce Decree

Updated on August 03, 2013
M.O. asks from Davenport, IA
12 answers

I am preparing with my lawyer, the final decree and I WANT to be very specific. My ex and I do try to cooperate with each other when making joint decisions about our children but they are young. My oldest will be in pre-k this fall 2013 and her sister will soon be potty training. i don't want to have to go to court 10 years down the road because we can't decide who will pay for elementary/high school activities and their college tuition. Does anyone have specific agreements that they would be willing to share with me?

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answers from St. Louis on

Ours states that college will be based on the tuition of the University of Missouri Columbia and it is divided by the percentages set in the decree. This way one can't force the other to pay for Harvard when the other can't afford it. So when our oldest daughter went to college with her scholarships her tuition at Xavier was less than Columbia so we split it by our percentages.

So far as gas money goes come on! That is like saying you want to dictate a percentage of clothes. I don't even pay for my kids gas, they want to drive that is their expense. If I did it would fall with if they ask me I give or I say no, same with my ex.

I say this because you don't want to write so much in there you end up with spoiled brats that get everything without earning it. I mean, think about it, what if you were still married, would you actually be filling your child's tank?

Just don't put too much in there because it is all enforceable against you as well, it limits your ability to be rational. I had to fight with my ex the beginning of this summer because we have teens, they like to sleep in. Our decree said we transfer at 8:30 in the morning. So you want me to wake them up and deliver two really pissed off kids or how about I drop them off right before bed and you do the same? First thing out of his mouth, what does the decree say. First thing out of my mouth would get this post removed. He agreed but it is always a struggle to remind him we do still have free will, we can still decide based on what is best for the kids.
Just throwing this out there we divorced when my youngest was 5, she is going on 13. It has survived two through college, one going into high school now, the youngest going to a private high school. We have never modified it. It is like the freaking Constitution, it is a living document so long as we keep working together. It is more of a fall back when we don't feel like being grown ups.

Seven years! and the only thing my attorney has had to do is send a letter to his attorney explaining she is an accountant, I think she knows how the IRS defines a medical expense.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I have no experience in this area, but I do want to say that it's smart of you to have college in the divorce decree. A family member of mine's daughter is entering college this fall, and because this wasn't spelled out in the original court order, the father is not helping AT ALL. No college money, and no child support now that she's 18. The mother is on the hook for all of it. If he had at least continued the original child support payments, it would have been so much help, but he won't do it.

I wonder if you could ask for "x" amount to go toward activities through the years. Ask your lawyer if that's a possibility.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

ETA: M., I messaged you. Happy to help. =0)

Um, I don't agree with Gamma G. It's actually nearly impossible to go back to court to have it modified unless you can PROVE something MAJOR happened to justify the change. You simply can't say, oh I don't like him having the kids on Wed night anymore so I want to change it.. Doesn't happen like that. You are VERY smart to have it be specific the first time and think ahead until they are 18 and beyond...And no, you do NOT want to say, oh instead of child support, you can pay for Billie's piano lesson. NO!! Do what Cheryl B suggests, very detailed on the time of day...Father to have kids for Thanksgiving every odd year from 9am to 8pm or whatever. Also make sure there is a blanket statement that says, "receiving parent to pick up kids for their parenting time". That means, if HE doesn't show up when he should, then you do NOT have to drive them to him. HE wants them, HE comes and gets them. Same for you for your time. Also make sure it says something about each parent may contact each child daily for a minimum of at least 10 min without the interference of other parent. I can't remember all the stuff in ours but it was hell getting it all in there but it finally is. I didn't read all the other responses, only the 2 last ones. It's a stressful time, good luck.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Be sure you are very specific re visitation - EXACT time of drop-off/pick-up and exactly who is responsible for transportation each way.

Also,. holidays and birthdays need to be provided for in EXACT detail, including transportation.

As for school activities, I think you should provide that each pay 1/2, but there has to be some sort of language regarding who/how to decide which activities and a limit on the number of activities per year AND what happens if an activity falls on a day the child is with the other parent.

As for college tuition, I think that should be left up to the individual parent whether or not to pay or contribute to that. By that time, the child will be an adult and should assume some responsibility for those costs themselves. However, I would want it stipulated that if the child is enrolled and ATTENDING college, then the child support continues for 2 years. I capitalize ATTENDING because some kids will enroll but not really go just so mom can continue to get the child support. Not saying you would do that, but dad needs some sort of protection against things like that. I would have it stipulated that he be provided with her attendance in college by semester and if she misses more than x days, child support ceases and the kid gets a job or mom foots the bill if that's what she wants to do.

Also, for out of pocket medical, each party pays 1/2 of anything not covered by insurance. Insurance is to be provided by both parents if available at little or no cost through employment. You need to spell out the EXACT amount considered to be "little" cost - that's something that could be argued over for sure. Everyone's idea of a "small cost" is different. If insurance is not afforded through employment at little or low cost, then each parent pays 1/2 of the premium as well as 1/2 of out of pocket expenses. Both parents MUST agree on any treatment that is not absolutely necessary. If parents do not or cannot agree, treatment is either foregone or at the sole cost of the parent who wants it. Again, children need what they NEED, but they don't necessarily NEED what they WANT.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I see doing something like causing a lot of problems. People change, times change, situations change, what seems like a good idea now can be horrible 5-10 yrs down the road. You may even box yourself into something you can't change yrs down the road.

If he tries to cooperate and flexible, why rock the boat? Come up with something that works for you both now and have a stipulation that it can be reviewed and modified every so often if needed. It doesn't mean a trip to court, with lawyers etc a mediator can help.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Honestly, trying to plan that far out is not going to work. Things change. I would say that the best thing to do is build in a mediator for future "life change" times. That way you can have a 3rd party working for your KIDS so it's not a "me vs. ex" thing.

It would make sense to revisit the needs annually, and to adjust accordingly, perhaps having the option to say "same as last year". You just can't plan for everything, and overplanning could potentially shut something out.

I'm a child of divorce, so I don't know how to approach it from the parent's side, but maybe this approach might be useful.

ADD: I do agree that some mention be made that if the child chooses to attend college or training that this be a supported expense even if the child is over 18.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

When I was helping to raise my two stepkids, the parents had a decree that spelled out everything pretty clearly, then we spent $50K on lawyer and court fees before they were 16.

Now, with our daughter, we had a mediated agreement that is only as specific as the court required us to be, and we filed it and never looked at it again, and haven't had any issues.

A piece of paper, no matter how detailed, and stamped by a court can not help you if you can't communicate and negotiate fairly.

From my first years of experience, I'd say a calendar with holidays specified is a good idea, along with who provides transportation. I would always want a clause that says this can be modified if both parents agree. Special events and opportunities come up. (Our daughter has never missed a holiday gathering with either family, or even a sleep-over with a friend. We just modify our weekly schedule for her benefit. With the first two, we had two lawyers involved before the children were allowed to attend my mother's funeral.)

Special medical expenses should be spelled out - orthodontia or other uncovered expenses. College should be planned for just as if you were married, if you would've started a fund, then start a fund.

"going to court" should never be an answer to a question like who pays for hockey equipment. The cost will be higher than their whole hockey career. Changes can be made to your decree without a court date. Mediation should always be an option if you just can't agree, but that is expensive, too.

Communication and compromise are needed to be co-parents.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Davenport on

Can you pm me? I'd love it if you could send me some of your statements!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I am going through this right now too. If you get anything good, please share it with me, if you can. I would be curious to know how many people are happy they went this route, and how many wish they just went through the court the normal way. I am leaning toward just going through court, as I don't want to constantly revisit the divorce. I don't want to get divorced, my husband does, but once it is done I want to be done. I am glad you asked this question. Good luck.



answers from Eau Claire on

Honestly, I would set up visitation you whatever schedule you agree on with stating who's traveling and times. If there is any specific holiday that is really important to you, put that in there. Otherwise every other srems to work well.

As for expenses, all it has to say us that each of you will pay half of all uncovered medical and activities and receipts must be provided if other parent wants. And I disagree with Gramma O you can expect them to pay child support and half of lessons.

I would not planning on changing things every year or two cuz it's VERY expensive to have a lawyer always in retainer.

As long as both of you put the kids first, it should work out fine.



answers from Washington DC on

The plan that I fought for and believed completely comprehensive at the time has been modified by mutual agreement many, many times in order to better meet our needs. Plan for what you think will work, but don't forget to insist on mediation at your request.



answers from Appleton on

We had specific orders to which I always followed. However my ex did not. I found out after my kids were over 18 that he often took them camping sometimes out of state and even into Canada and then told the kids to lie about it. He often took the kids into homes where people were sick, the kids got sick, I had the flu so many times the first couple of years we were divorced I almost couldn't work. I paid hundreds of dollars on OTC meds for the kids and took tons of flack from the schools because the kids were sick. He also got them to school late when they slept over at his house --- but many times they were at his girlfriend's house not where I thought they would be. He never got the insurance coverage he was ordered to get.



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