Using South Dakota's guidelines to develop a co-parenting plan

While you and your spouse may have good intentions when you sit down together to discuss child custody during your divorce, it can be all too easy to allow personal feelings to intrude and derail your attempts at an agreement. The South Dakota court system takes the best interests of your child seriously, though, and provides you with some detailed parenting guidelines that may help you stay on track.

Creating a schedule

Your goal should be a calendar that allows your child to spend as much quality time as possible with each parent. This not only includes the regular schedule, with details about childcare, weekends, evenings and special days, but also reasonable vacation times and holiday plans. Neither of you may disrupt this schedule or deny visitation because of unpaid child support or some other issue regarding the court order.

The court suggests that you should attempt to be flexible when small changes to the schedule are necessary. For example, if the other parent cannot pick up your child because of sickness, you should be willing to reschedule as soon as possible. Larger changes, such as a move, require notice, and may also be subject to a custody modification.

Contacting your child

While your child is with the other parent, you should be able to Skype, call, text or email him or her within reason, and the other parent should have that ability when your child is with you, as well. These should not be intrusive, though, and a schedule may help to make sure you are able to connect without interrupting any special activities or other quality time with the other parent. There is no limit to the amount of correspondence you may send your child, including recordings, letters, care packages and other items.

Sharing information with each other

In order to raise your child together, you and your former spouse must be able to communicate effectively. To facilitate that communication, the court requires you each to provide contact information, such as the addresses and phone numbers of your home and work. However, neither of you should contact the other at work unless absolutely necessary, and both of you have the right to privacy in your home. You should both have access to all relevant information about your child's education, medical records, insurance and activities.

Promoting healthy relationships

Your child should be able to stay in touch with people he or she has an important bond with, such as extended family and friends. However, you and the other parent should make it clear to everyone that there must be no disrespecting of either parent to your child at any time.

Even with such detailed guidelines, there are many child custody and visitation issues that may not be easily resolved. Speaking with a family law attorney may prevent disputes through solutions that benefit you, your child and the other parent.

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