IMPORTANCE OF PARENTING PLANS IN DIVORCE AND SEPARATION AGREEMENTS
According to the New Hampshire Law regarding parental rights and responsibilities, specifically section 461-A: 2, children are considered tohave proper development when both parents are present during their
childhood. The state has therefore put in place measures to ensure children always have access to both parents unless there is sufficient evidence to prove that contact with either or both parents has a negative effect on the child. The state has therefore set forth various structures to ensure children have access to both parents. These include:
Frequent and continuing contact between each child and both parents.
Encouragement of parents in sharing the rights and responsibilities of raising their children after divorce or separation.
Encouragement of parents to develop their own parenting plan with the assistance of legal and mediation professionals unless there is presence of domestic violence, child abuse or neglect.
Granting parents and courts the widest discretion in developing a parenting plan.
Consideration of both the best interests of the child in light of the parental rights and responsibilities as well as the safety of the parties in the development of a parenting plan.
According to the New Hampshire Legal Aid, a parenting plan is meant to further the State’s intention to foster family relationships. In addition to this, family plans also encourage the cooperative working of parents so as to benefit their children. They are also intended to keep both the child’s parents involved in an active manner in the child’s life with the recognition that having a positive relationship between the children and both parents is the best practice for the children’s healthy development. The State and the Courts consenting to these parenting plans have the expectation that both parents will always make decisions that are positive and have the best interests of the child coming first even if the parents’ interests are in conflict with those of the child.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ clinical report in 2002, parental conflicts before separation or divorce often leads to internalizing and externalizing behavioural problems among the affected children. This report also showed that divorce may have a long term effect of limiting or delaying a child’s capacity for intimacy and commitment as young adults. It is therefore essential for a good parenting plan to be available to ensure children are able to have positive relationships with both parents with limited exposure to parental conflicts so as to reduce the negative effects associated with divorce. Parental plans also ensure that both parents abide by their responsibilities and duties which in turn reflect on the wellbeing of the child. Despite being divorced or separated, parental plans also ensure that children have access to both parents which enables them to maintain a stable relationship with them giving them a sense of belonging as opposed to having access to only one parent. The State of New Hampshire often prefers to keep a child’s living conditions stable with the best interests of the child in mind so as to ensure security and predictability.