Parenting Guidelines: How Closely Should I Follow My Parenting Plan?

Parenting Guidelines: How Closely Do I Have to Follow My Parenting Plan?Plans are Never Perfect

Parenting plans provide parenting guidelines for co-parents. They are court-ordered, meaning you could be found in contempt if you disobey one. But following your parenting plan is essential for another reason: your child’s benefit. Parenting plans are designed to provide your child with consistent parenting, which can otherwise be difficult when co-parents don’t agree or communicate well. The guidelines set forth in your parenting plan can benefit your child, so it’s important to follow them closely in most situations.

Weigh Your Options

Although parenting plans are legally enforceable, the court encourages parents to do what they can to make their parenting plan work before asking the court to step in. A parenting plan could include precise parenting guidelines, such as the specific hour of a weekend exchange. Life, however, isn’t always exact. You could get a flat tire on the way to meet the other parent or have an emergency come up. The court understands there will be times when you can’t follow your plan line by line.

There are also some general parenting guidelines for when you can’t follow your parenting plan. The best first step is to notify the other parent. Let him or her know you will not be able to adhere to the parenting plan and provide reasoning. Hopefully, you can communicate effectively and find a solution.

The next step is to refer to your dispute resolution plan. These are usually included in parenting plans to guide parents in the event they are unable to follow the plan or agree on compromises. Dispute resolution isn’t necessary for minor violations—like being a little late to a pickup—but rather for ongoing conflicts like being unable to accommodate weekend visits.

Be Flexible and Use Good Judgment

Hopefully, these tips will give you an idea of how carefully you need to follow your parenting plan in different situations. Have to switch up the visitation schedule during the holidays? Try to find a compromise with the other parent. Facing repeated no-shows by the other parent? Time to look into dispute resolution or talk to an attorney about involving the court.

A skilled New Jersey child custody attorney can give you the legal guidance you need to make the best decisions about following your parenting plans. You can’t always follow a schedule while raising a child. You will find yourself in situations where it’s best to deflect from the plan. Just make sure you are always doing what is in your child’s best interests. Also, work with an attorney if you need help enforcing your plan or modifying it for your child’s benefit.


Do you have questions about New Jersey parenting plans? If so, Williams Law Group, LLC can help. Our skilled attorneys can advise you of your rights and help you navigate your case. Located in Short Hills, New Jersey, Williams Law Group, LLC provides compassionate and dedicated legal services to Union, Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Monmouth, and Middlesex counties, and the surrounding areas. Our knowledgeable attorneys handle divorce and family law, child custody, and child abuse/neglect cases. Call our office at (908) 810-1083, email us at, or contact us through our confidential online form to schedule a consultation and ultimately get you connected with an experienced New Jersey divorce and child custody attorney.




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