In every Divorce where children are involved, a parenting plan is required by the court. A parenting plan lays out the basic perimeters of the custody of the child as well as the support of the child. Part A of the Parenting Plan deals with the legal and physical custody of the child. Part B deals with the monetary issues that arise when parenting a child (for instance health insurance costs, extracurricular costs and child support itself). Unfortunately, when Children are involved in a divorce, there's always a good chance that you are going to have to go back to court some day to modify the agreement that you have made in your initial divorce. Children's lives will change and so will yours throughout the years. What may have worked before may not work five or ten years down the road.
For instance, when you have very small children, between the ages of zero and five, the children are not in school yet. This makes for a very different schedule than when the children are in school. Additionally, smaller children need more frequent periods of visitation with both parents if possible. Many publications on the early psychological development of children back this up and the courts have taken notice. This is a well-accepted rule and something that should be taken into account when the children are young. A week on, week off schedule may work well for you but realistically children this small shouldn't be away from the other parent for that long. It's well established that this is an important bonding period that requires frequent contact more so than later stages of a child's life.
Also, day care needs will change. The older a child gets, the less child care the child needs. Many parents decide that by the time a child is high school age that he or she can watch him or herself completely. Prior to that time, some after school care or before school care might be required. And in the very early years, constant daily child care is usually required until the child reaches school age. This matters a great deal because depending on how the child care costs are calculated into the Parenting Plan Part B and the Form 14 (the form that calculates child support numbers), this can drastically change the amount of money one parent owes to the other for support. And more importantly, this will affect the custody schedule as well.
It is also not unusual for a parent to find a new job or remarry and move. This can be tricky. Sometimes later in life it will become apparent that a child has a special learning need and that needs to be accounted for as well. So many things can change over time that will affect the plan that was originally agreed upon.
In general, your life will change. The younger your child is, the more time there is for your life to change and for that to affect them—making it imperative that a new order be written. I like to try to account for every change I can at the time of the initial Dissolution or Paternity, but it's difficult to anticipate the future perfectly and account for every twist and turn. It's important that when things do inevitably change for you and your family that the order is modified. It's best to do this before problems occur and you and the other parent cannot agree on new terms that are appropriate for the children. Many times, thousands of dollars can be saved by creating a Consent Order while there is a high level of agreement about the change that needs to be made. This can be done without litigation and I think that is attractive to a lot of parents. There are enough stresses raising a child in two separate households as it is. Planning is key to a less stressful and successful division of the responsibilities of parenting of young children.