Among the many considerations parents need to deal with during a separation or divorce, minimizing the negative impact the situation will have on their children should be a number one priority.
The best way to ensure that a separation or divorce does not negatively affect your child or children is to establish a parenting plan.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is an outline of how you and your ex-partner will co-parent your children. It is a detailed, yet flexible, arrangement that helps to reduce conflict while serving the best interest of your child.
If you and your ex are in agreement, you can establish a parenting plan on your own. Keep in mind that this is an unofficial agreement and cannot be upheld in family court.
However, it is a useful starting point that will save you time with lawyers and court. It is possible to take a parenting plan and file your own custody and access agreement or have a lawyer file one for you.
Here are some aspects of your child’s life that you should discuss with your ex and include in your plan.
The Parenting Plan Template & Checklist
You can download a printable PDF of this checklist here, or simply read through the checklist below:
- Where is your child going to live?
- Who will have day-to-day care of the child?
- What % of time is he or she going to spend at each house?
- Is your child going to have 2 sets of clothing, toys, etc., or will one set be sent between houses?
Visitation and Access
- What days and times will the other (non-residential) parent have time with the child?
- Who will drop off and pick up? Where?
- How will the child communicate with the other parent when apart (Skype, phone etc.)?
- How will changes of access be communicated?
- Will missed days be made up?
Vacations, Holidays, Birthdays
- Will these days be shared (morning with one parent, afternoon with the other) or alternated (one year with one parent, the next year with the other)?
- Is there going to be additional access for special days such as Father’s or Mother’s Day?
- Who will be responsible for arranging medical and dental care?
- What kinds of medical situations will require parental agreement?
- Who will pay for medical coverage?
- How will both parents access medical records?
- What school will your child attend?
- Will your child require tutoring? Who will pay?
- Who will attend parent-teacher meetings?
- How will both parents access school records?
- How many extracurricular activities will your child participate in?
- Who will pay for them?
- Which parent will attend them?
- Who will drop off and pick up child from activities?
Religion and Culture
- Will the child attend religious or cultural events or education?
- Do both parents have to consent on this?
- What language will the child speak?
- How much notice is required before traveling from home?
- Does the child require written consent from the other parent?
- What travel details does the other parent require?
Communication Between Parents
- How will you communicate with the other parent (phone, email, text)?
- What type of information will you be required to share with each other?
- How will you deal with conflict?
Parenting Rules and Expectations
- How will you discipline your child?
- What rules will your child have to follow in each home?
- How much screen time can your child have?
- What kinds of food should your child eat?
Dealing With Disagreements
While a parenting plan cannot be enforced in family court, it can serve as a great example to a judge as to what the original arrangements were. It will help them understand exactly where the conflicts lie.
If you do need to attend court to resolve issues and establish a court-ordered arrangement, it is recommended that you seek legal advice from a professional.