Separation and Divorce: Your Parenting Plan Checklist 

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:

Living Arrangements

  • 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?

Healthcare

  • 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?

Education

  • 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?

Activities

  • 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?

Travel

  • 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.

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