Separation: What is a Parenting Plan?
What should be included in the document that lawyers must attach to the initial petitions for separation and divorce? Following the Cartabia reform, anyone wishing to separate or divorce must attach a parenting plan to their petition, outlining the main activities involving minor children. The aim is to promote the concrete implementation of the principle of joint parenting, ensuring the presence of both parents in the child’s life despite the separation. What is a parenting plan, and how does it work? Let’s explore it together.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is a document that lawyers must attach whenever a legal action involves minors, including cases of separation and divorce. By law, the parenting plan specifies the commitments and daily activities related to school, educational pathways, extracurricular activities, regular social interactions, and usual vacation arrangements for the children. The parenting plan includes a list of items defining the activities to be carried out with the children, indicating the times and the roles of the parents.
What is the Purpose of a Parenting Plan?
The parenting plan is designed to establish a program in which the judge can assess the parent’s involvement in the child’s life from the outset. It is not merely a formal account of the children’s activities but should highlight a plan for exercising parental responsibility. In the context of separation and divorce, the parenting plan aims to implement joint parenting, ensuring that the child continues to have a relationship with both parents, even when separated. The parenting plan allows the judge to verify if the exercise of parental responsibility is structured correctly by the parties involved.
Who Prepares the Parenting Plan?
As mentioned earlier, the law requires the parenting plan to be attached to the initial petitions for separation and divorce if there are minor children involved. The plan is drafted by the lawyer based on the information provided by their client. Both spouses are obligated to fulfill this requirement, meaning that a single parenting plan is attached if it’s a joint petition (or an agreement in assisted negotiation). However, separate plans are attached when submitted with their respective defensive pleadings (petition and appearance in court). After the initial presiding hearing, if attempts at reconciliation between the spouses fail, the judge, while issuing temporary and urgent measures, may propose their own parenting plan based on those already submitted by the parties.
What to Include in the Parenting Plan?
In addition to rules regarding shared custody, custodial parent arrangements, and visitation schedules, the parenting plan should include specific sections addressing:
- Education: Choice of school (public or private), after-school care, special education, homeschooling, extracurricular activities, and cost-sharing between parents.
- Health: Medical appointments, decision-making authority, designated healthcare providers, and the allocation of medical expenses.
- Communication: Phone contacts, sharing relevant information, internet contact, mobile phone costs, and internet usage.
- Holidays, special occasions, family birthdays, and significant dates.
- Division of expenses between parents.
What Happens if the Parenting Plan is Not Followed?
The parenting plan is not a mere formality but a concrete proposal for a parent’s participation in the child’s life. This is confirmed by the fact that the law prescribes severe penalties for non-compliance. Specifically, failure to adhere to the court-approved parenting plan can result in:
- A warning to the non-compliant parent.
- The imposition of a monetary penalty for each violation or subsequent non-compliance, or for each day of delay in executing the order.
- A court-imposed administrative fine ranging from a minimum of 75 euros to a maximum of 5,000 euros payable to the Amends Fund.
In cases of serious breaches, including financial misconduct or acts that harm the child or hinder the correct execution of custody and parental responsibility arrangements, the judge can also order the non-compliant parent to compensate the other parent or the child, even ex officio.
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