If you’re going through a divorce, you’ve probably heard the term “parenting plan,” and you may be wondering what it entails. Today we examine some basic components you should consider when drafting a parenting plan:
What is a parenting plan?
A parenting plan – often referred to as a child custody agreement – is an agreement between you and your ex that lays out how you will raise your shared children following a divorce. Establishing a parenting plan is useful for any divorcing couple with children. It helps couples to think strategically about how the divorce will impact their kids and come up with a game plan to handle co-parenting in the best way possible. Among other things, a parenting plan can help you decide:
- How you should make decisions regarding your children – e.g., should you consult the other parent in all decision making?
- How you and your ex will share information
- When and where the children will spend time with each parent
Factors to consider
While you can include a wide range of conditions in your parenting plan, here are a few key points that are worth thinking through:
- Custody: Will one parent have legal or physical custody of the children, or will custody be shared?
- Parenting schedule: Following a divorce, it’s important to establish a new routine with your children to ease their adjustment. You can use the parenting plan as a tool to plan out when your children will stay with each parent. In making this determination, consider school and work schedules, school vacation dates as well as extracurricular activities your children participate in. For instance, if one of your children goes to soccer practice every Tuesday on the east side of town, and your ex also lives in that area, perhaps it makes sense to arrange your parenting schedule around that.
- Points of agreement: While there may be bad blood between you and your ex, consider what types of conditions you can agree on for the sake of your children. Are there certain respectful behaviors you can both agree to, such as avoiding hostile interactions, promptly sharing information that’s relevant to both parents and allowing your children reasonable access to the other parent?
- Dispute resolution: If you and your ex bump heads on an issue further down the road, what method of resolution will you employ?
In creating a parenting plan, your primary focus should be on coming up with an arrangement that maximizes agreement and respect between parents – which is in the best interest of the child. In addition, you want to be sure that your plan meets the court’s requirements. If you’re uncertain about the requirements in your state, an experienced family law attorney can help.