In West Virginia, you and the other parent of your child can submit a Joint Parenting Plan for approval. Judges usually approve the plan without any issues. You can submit this form before filing your child custody case.
If you don’t submit a Joint Parenting Plan before filing a child custody case, the judge may require that you and the other parent go through mediation to draft a plan together. Using a mediator to guide you in writing a parenting plan that’s fair to both sides is a good idea even without a court order mandating that you do so. A mediator could help you find creative solutions to custody schedules if you and the other parent are struggling to come up with a schedule. Mediators could also help you and the other parent negotiate issues that you may disagree about.
When a court makes a decision on a parenting plan, it looks at what the caretaking was like before the parents separated or divorced. If one parent was significantly more involved in looking after the child, the court may favor him or her in the parenting plan for spending more time with the child.
The judge will also listen to what a 14-year-old prefers. If a child under age 14 is mature for their age, the judge could give some consideration to what they want as well.
In situations in which the parents have more than one child, the judge will question if it’s important for the children’s well-being to live together. The court doesn’t want to cause any more instability in a child’s life than necessary. Thus, how practical the parenting plan is for the children is a major factor as well. A custody schedule that involves a frequent back-and-forth between residences is unlikely to pass if the kids are teens. It’s stressful and inconvenient for a teenager to transition that frequently. Young children, however, tend to benefit from seeing their parents more frequently.
West Virginia evaluates parenting plans based on what is in the child’s best interest. As long as you keep that in mind when writing your parenting plan, it’s likely to be approved.