Sample Montana Parenting Plan: IntroductionMarybeth Sampsel
This is the first of a series of articles where I will show you parts of an actual parenting plan prepared by my office. I’ll also shed some light on the considerations that go into drafting each section to give you an idea of a few things that are important to keep in mind when approaching this topic. Because it is just not practical (or very beneficial) to do so, I will not be posting the entire parenting plan. Remember, these are just pieces of the picture and not a substitute for legal advice. If you are creating a parenting plan on your own, Montana Legal Services has created a series of forms to help. I recommend starting with the Questionnaire link at the top of the page.
The following is actual language (with the names changed) from a parenting plan my office created. These are some of the general provisions and are relatively common across all parenting plans. In fact, as we’ll discuss in a moment, this information is generally required in all plans.
Identification of Child. The parties have one child, as identified below:
Only Child See Confidential Disclosure Statement
Residency of Parents. The legal residences of the parties are:
Homer Simpson Marge Simpson
P.O. Box 123 P.O. Box 999
Springfield, Montana 59911 Springfield, Montana 59911
Objectives of Parenting Plan. This plan is intended to:
- Protect the child’s best interests;
- Provide for the physical care of the child;
- Maintain the child’s emotional stability and minimize the child’s exposure to parental conflict;
- Provide for the child’s changing needs as the child grows and matures, in a way that minimizes the need for future amendment to this Parenting Plan;
- Set forth the authority and responsibilities of each parent with respect to the child during the pendency of this action; and
- Help the parties avoid expensive future court battles over the child.
Obviously, I have not represented the fictional Simpsons in a divorce. But, no matter who the client is, most of these provisions would be identical. Obviously, the identifying information changes from person to person. The name and made-up address for Homer and Marge would be changed to reflect that of yourself and your spouse. Also, notice that the name of the child is not mentioned, it says “only child.” This is because Montana law requires that we protect the identity of minor children involved in a divorce. Instead of identifying the child by name in this filing, which is public record, a separate document is filed which includes the child’s name and social security number, and other personal information. That document is sealed by the court protecting it from prying eyes and identity thieves.
The first item under Objectives of Parenting Plan should look familiar if you have been reading my past entries. The best interests of the child is paramount in all divorce proceedings involving children. So in a parenting plan, we put it front and center to make it clear that this plan attempts to provide for the child’s best interests, and not necessarily the parent’s. Items two and three share this same idea, and I don’t believe require any further explanation.
Items four, five, and six all share the common theme of demonstrating that the plan contemplates the future and not just the immediate needs of the child. The process of creating a Montana parenting plan between two divorcing spouses (or two spouses who were never married) is time consuming and expensive. Ideally, you should only have to do it once. These provisions indicate to the court that this plan is not a band-aid, but a (hopefully) permanent solution that will allow the parents to work together in raising their child. Obviously, these provisions do little or nothing on their own, but they do signify to the court what to look for in the rest of the plan.
As we examine other parts of this sample Montana parenting plan, you will see how these basic ideas are specifically addressed. As a divorce attorney practicing in Kalispell, Montana, I have a great deal of experience drafting parenting plans, and would be happy to share my expertise with you. Please call anytime to set up an appointment.