What is a Parenting Plan?

Co-parenting can be difficult for even the best of couples. Each parent may have different ideals and styles when dealing with their children. This becomes even more challenging when a couple divorces. Now, instead of caring for the little ones in a single household, they are shuffling between homes. Communication between parents becomes more important. Without a well-thought-out parenting plan, former spouses will likely struggle at working with one another. When parents are unable to co-parent, the children are the ones who lose.

A parenting plan sets forth where the children live, how much time they spend with each parent and who makes decisions regarding education, health, and general wellbeing. Other issues, such as notification of illness, sharing of school photos, sports and extra-curricular activities and day-care may also be included in a detailed parenting plan. In cases were parents are unable or unwilling to cooperate or openly communicate with one another regarding the care and welfare of their children, it is important to set forth a long, detailed agreement.

In developing a parenting plan, spouses should also consider the payment of child support, division of extra-curricular expenses and education costs of their children. In establishing a method on how to address issues going forward, they (and their children) can better understand what is expected going forward. 

Couples can rely on the court to make decisions regarding their parenting plan, but many spouses are able to resolve the issues on their own or with the assistance of a mediator. In collaborative divorces, parents may work with a coach or child specialist to develop a parenting plan that will work best for them and their children. Plans that are created by parents together tend to be ones that result in greater satisfaction for parents and children.    

Regardless of whether parents develop a plan on their own, with the assistance of professionals or have a court dictate the terms, parenting plans can be a vital component of a Marital Settlement Agreement or Judgment of Divorce.