The end of a relationship can be a difficult time, especially when children are involved. However, it’s essential to set aside emotions to figure out future arrangements that are in the best interests of the children. Separated parents have the option of obtaining parenting orders (with or without agreement) or enter into a less formal parenting plan.
A parenting plan is a written agreement that sets out arrangements for children and is signed by both parties. There is no standard form of preparation, so it is quite easy to prepare and execute. It’s not legally enforceable but it’s a good way to clarify any matters and ensure both parties understand what arrangements have been agreed upon.
What Does a Parenting Plan Cover?
What your parenting plan includes ultimately depends on your individual circumstances. It should account for their needs at the time based on their age as well as future needs as their lifestyle changes.
Key items to include are:
- Custody – This includes where the child/children live primarily as well as covering legal custody. You should consider day-to-day routines, extracurricular activities, vacations, holidays and special occasions. How is time between each parent split up? How are major decisions about the child made? How will childcare arrangements work if required?
- Time schedules – Your parenting plan should outline drop off and pick up schedules in cases of shared custody. Where will they occur and at what time? What happens if there is a change in schedule?
- Financial responsibilities – How are financial duties divided? This includes school expenses, medical expenses and everyday expenses such as food, clothing, etc. You may also look at tax considerations.
- Medical care – How are routine doctor and dentist appointments handled? Who is responsible for providing medical insurance?
- Communication – How will both parties communicate regarding co-parenting and important events in the children’s lives?
- General rules and guidelines – It can be a good idea to outline rules about discipline, bedtimes, homework, diet, screen time, etc. to ensure there is a degree of stability in your child/children’s lives.
A relationship with both parents is generally always best for the children. Unless there are circumstances involving abuse, neglect, mental health issues or substance abuse, the court will want to see that both parents are going to be supportive of the children and part of their life.
What Happens If There is a Dispute?
It’s a good idea to include a plan on how to handle disputes and conflicts. While a parenting plan is not legally enforceable, if a dispute eventually goes before the court, the court must consider the terms of the latest parenting plan when making parenting orders. This is not bound by the terms of the parenting plan.
Keep in mind that both parties can agree to change arrangements in a parenting order by entering into a subsequent parenting plan. If this happens, both parties may not be able to rely on parts of the previous parenting order that are inconsistent with the new parenting plan.
Need Help With Your Parenting Plan?
Do you need help creating a parenting plan? At EDUCARE, we’re specialist child psychologists and can help you create a parenting plan that ensures the wellbeing of your child. Contact Us for more information about our services.