A parenting plan is a child custody agreement that outlines the responsibilities of separated or divorced parents. It is a critical document outlining the goals, beliefs, attitudes, and schedules each parent must follow.
Parenting plans are typically included in divorce and separation agreements. However, some parents create individual plans that they submit to the court for consideration. You may also work together and reach an agreement outside of court before submission and signing.
This written document outlines in detail how parents will raise children after divorce or separation. A carefully crafted parenting plan makes life easier for both parents and their children.
It should be detailed and carefully thought out to serve the children’s best interests. There are many points to consider to ensure your parenting plan works best for your family, including finances, holidays, communications, and time-sharing.
The courts believe that all children must have a relationship with both parents. Even if your painting plan is created in court, they try to ensure that both parents support the children’s best interests.
Parenting Plan Guidelines
Some guidelines to help you create a working parenting plan include:
A working parenting plan should uphold the child’s best interests. These interests include emotional and physical needs. Taking the time to consider the child’s needs allows parents to create a perfect plan.
The plan should include physical needs such as food, clothing, shelter, exercise, rest, mobility, protection, and medical care.
It also includes emotional needs such as maintaining relationships with each parent, supporting their mental health, and managing their temperament.
Depending on age and developmental stages, you should also consider the child’s special interests.
Other factors that directly impact the child’s best interests include distance between the parents’ homes, parents’ work schedules, and distance to schools, friends, extracurricular activities, and other relevant locations.
A working parenting schedule directly impacts the family’s routine. The plan lets each parent know how much time they have with the children. Organizing a routine or schedule that works for the whole family is essential.
The parenting schedule may change as the children grow. However, most family courts recommend a 50/50 time split where possible.
If one parent’s home is too far for regular visitation, consider arrangements for children to visit over summer or winter breaks.
In addition to regular days, the parenting plan should consider special dates such as birthdays and holidays like Christmas.
Having a solid plan for such dates allows each parent to manage their schedule in advance.
Communication is key to a working parenting plan. Most parents assume it is as easy as making a phone call when they need important information.
However, once children start moving between homes, the challenge of sharing important information arises.
Determine communication early in the parenting plan, outlining how and when to stay in touch, and share important updates such as school events.
Once you have a reliable communication plan, it is also easier to plan how parents can keep in touch with their children when they are away.
Any major life decisions are bound to affect your children’s lives. If you have shared custody, discuss, and outline how to handle such decisions.
Include a plan for important decisions during emergencies such as unexpected injuries or accidents. Some decisions that you might have to confront include:
- Medical care
- Cultural influences
- Religious practices
Both parents are responsible for their children’s finances. Parenting plans will usually include child support agreements to cover living costs. This is especially important if one parent can offer their child more financially.
Your parenting plan should also outline what child support will cover. A running-log outlining children-related expenses may help document how the child support was spent.
Such a log can also help parents determine their children’s total expenses and plan for future expenditure.
Aside from regular expenses, unexpected costs may arise that are not covered by child support. Your parenting plan should outline how you will handle such costs by dividing responsibility or reimbursement.
If other financial aspects are unique to your child, consider speaking to an attorney for guidance.
Your parenting plan should include the following:
- Custody arrangements: Outline the custody agreements, whether joint or sole. Where the children live also determines which parent makes major decisions on their behalf.
- Time schedules: This includes daily routines, overnight stays, holidays, vacations, and special occasions.
- Drop-off and pick-up schedules: Outline pick-up and drop-off guidelines if both parents work and if there are unexpected schedule changes.
- Financial responsibilities: Clearly outline each parent’s financial responsibility concerning school expenses, emergencies, and living costs such as food, shelter, and clothing.
- Medical care: Outline which parents is responsible for routine medical appointments, how to handle medical expenses, and health insurance.
- Education: Plan where your children will attend school and how to participate in parent-teacher conferences and share school report cards.
- Communication: Your parenting plan should include communication guidelines on how to notify each other about the children’s schedules and important life events. Consider where to keep important children’s documents, such as insurance cards, birth certificates, or social security cards.
- Travel, relocation, and vacations: Plan for future travel or vacations. The parenting plan should also cover what happens if one parent wants to remarry and relocate.
- Amendments: The parenting plan should evolve as the children grow to accommodate their best interests. Plan on how to make amendments to the parenting plan and how to resolve disagreements about future decisions.
Other things to include in a parenting plan may include:
- Diet plans
- Screen time
- Age-restrictions on babysitters
- Grandparent visitation
- How to introduce future partners
To create a working parenting plan, you must anticipate as many issues as possible and outline how to handle them. Depending on state custody guidelines, you must also use specific language in the plan.
While it is recommended that parents try to work out an amicable parenting plan, it is important to consult a family attorney to ensure you have covered all the legal requirements.