What you need to know about formulating a viable parenting plan under Polish law

The parenting plan ought to be precise and detailed, defining the respective responsibilities of the parents in all realms of the child’s life. At the same time, however, the parenting plan ought to be flexible enough to accommodate real-life practicalities.

The parenting plan is a set of voluntarily agreed rules regulating exercise of parental rights and interacting with the child after the parents’ divorce. In order for the parenting plan to be included in a divorce decision handed down by a Polish court of law, the following prerequisites must be met: unanimous application by the parties to the divorce proceedings, submission of the parents’ agreement, and substantiation that it is reasonable to expect that the parents will co-operate in matters concerning the child.

Under the Polish Family and Guardianship Code, a court shall accept and affirm the parenting plan if it is compatible with the welfare of the child. The degree to which the parenting plan is accepted, and the exact means of its implementation, are left to the court’s discretion. The original parenting plan may be subject to modification in the course of the divorce proceedings, in line with the court’s own adjustments, and/or by the parents acting on the court’s recommendations. Where the original parenting plan is deemed to be too succinct, the court may accept a plan in which the same basic provisions are extrapolated upon to a greater level of detail. Accordingly, the question arises, how to formulate a parenting plan which stands a good chance of approval as first formulated by the parties to the divorce proceedings?

How to prepare a viable parenting plan?

The Polish Family and Guardianship Code does not lay down detailed requirements as to the form or contents of the parenting plan, leaving plenty of leeway for different solutions best suited to the specific circumstances of the given divorce. Albeit the legal doctrine states that a parenting plan may be formulated orally for the court records or worked out before the court as it sits in session, the written form is recommended. In general, a parenting plan should be specific, yet flexible, setting out how, and when, the various parental duties are to be performed to the child’s benefit, with due heed for the child’s age and personal circumstances.

A parenting plan may begin with a broad formulation of the parental rights and specifics as to how the child is to maintain contacts with both parents and as to how the child support costs are to be divided between the parents. Having defined this framework, it may move on to details, such as:

  • Contacts with the child – when the child is to spend time with each parent, where it will reside. Some attention may also be devoted to the question of the child’s contacts with other individuals, e.g. with new partners of the respective former spouses;
  • Vacations, holidays – issues such as with whom, and for how long, the child will stay during school vacations and/or public holidays, rules governing foreign travel with the child, who is to hold the child’s passport and other documents;
  • Health care for the child – who is to make decisions concerning, say, selection of physicians and modes of treatment, who is to attend to the child’s regular health regimen (check-ups, vaccinations), and who is to have access to the child’s medical records;
  • Education – who, and how, is to make decisions concerning the child’ educational path and future career choices, selection of schools, responsibility for maintaining contacts with the child’s teachers, permission for field trips / extracurricular activities, who is to cover the costs associated with the child’s education;
  • Finances – alimony as well as responsibility for all and sundry costs associated with caring for the child.

To the extent possible, any and all such matters ought to be consulted with the child herself – the Polish Family and Guardianship Code actually institutes such a duty for parents working on a parenting plan. It is also worth mentioning that the Polish Family and Guardianship Code establishes a rule that siblings should be brought up together, unless the welfare of the child requires a different outcome.

A parenting plan may also institute a procedure for subsequent amendment of its provisions and for resolution of any attendant disputes, i.e. appointment of an impartial mediator.

After they have agreed upon the proposed parenting plan, the parents present it to the court for assessment from the perspective of compliance with applicable laws and of the specific situation of the child. The court may duly adjust the proposed plan.

If the parents have reached agreement with regard to specific issues only, they may bring such an incomplete plan before the court. Should the court deem this to be insufficient, it may set an additional deadline for formulations of a fuller parenting plan or refer the matter to mediation.

Why prepare a parenting plan?

If the parents themselves do not reach agreement as to how they are to divide care and responsibility for their child, a divorce court sitting in accordance with Polish law may proceed to adjudicate on custody, financial support etc of its own accord, with the possible outcome that one parent will be awarded well-nigh complete custody, and the other – a limited set of basic rights, plus the duty to provide for the child financially. If the parents have not reached agreement on their own, or if they have proposed an agreement which is invalid or unenforceable, a Polish court may not leave the parental authority with both parents.

Accordingly, it is advisable that the parenting plan is precise and detailed, defining the respective responsibilities of the parents in all realms of the child’s life. At the same time, however, the parenting plan ought to be flexible enough to accommodate real-life practicalities.

While working out a parenting plan may seem like the last thing that divorcing parties want to do, its preparation, due to the circumstances mentioned above, is strongly recommended. In the end, they say that even the worst settlement is preferable to the best judgment.