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The American Law Institute's Principles on the Law of Family Dissolution were published in 2002. These principles, which were developed over nearly a decade, reflect the thinking of prominent family law scholars, practitioners and judges concerning the legal consequences of marital dissolution: child custody, child support, distribution of marital property and compensatory payments to former spouses. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers undertook the process of reviewing the ALI Principles concerning the Allocation of Custodial Decision-Making Responsibilities for Children and drafting a model parenting plan that would reflect the spirit of the ALI Principles relating to parenting plans without reference to the substantive law proposed for making child custody and visitation decisions.

The proposed model parenting plan can be used to comply with state laws or court rules that require submission of a comprehensive plan. It can also be used in other states as a tool to help parents make plans for their children. The model plan requires parents to think about a myriad of options for the continued care of their children with the hope that planning in advance of the custody order will help to avoid post divorce conflicts. The plan is also useful as a means of preparing for eventual litigation as it narrows the issues in the dispute making any judicial proceeding more focused and efficient.

The model plan also reflects the theory that in order to best serve the needs of children, plans must be age appropriate. Thus, the model plan encourages parents to think about the needs of their children at different development stages. Options for care of children are grouped according to what the social science research supports as appropriate for meeting the needs of children at different stages in their development.

This article starts with the evolving law of child custody and summarizes the key provisions of the AAML Plan including jurisdiction, decision-making, education, medical care, extracurricular activities, religion, scheduling, relocation, travel, parent behavior, care by others, modification of the agreement, disputes, child support and breach. It is hoped that the plan will be useful to attorneys but more so that it will make a difference in the lives of children.

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Journal of American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers