A parenting plan is an agreement mutually consented to by the parents of a minor that entails the responsibilities of child care for each parent. It is expected to detail the custody arrangements such as everyday welfare and long-term plans for the child. This agreement is well suited for parents who have undergone legal separation and provides a structure for taking care of their child or children as the case may be.
When to Use a Parenting Plan
These parenting plan templates can be used under any of the following circumstances:
- A parenting plan is needed when you have to co-parent with someone who is not your spouse.
- When a parenting plan is required of you by the state while getting a divorce.
- When you need a parenting plan for your own needs during a period of separation.
Who Should Make a Parenting Plan
According to the Family Law Act 1975, both parents of the child are to consent and sign a parenting plan before it can be considered binding. However, in some cases, a parenting plan can include other relatives such as the step-parents or grandparents.
Parenting Plan vs. Parenting Order
|Parenting Plan||Parenting Order|
|Voluntarily agreed on by the parents only||Ordered by the court when parents fail to agree|
|Does not carry the force of law||Backed up by the law|
|No legal consequence||Could attract legal consequence, if not adhered to|
The Children’s Act proposes a parenting plan as a written agreement by the child’s parents with the inputs of an unbiased third party, normally a family lawyer or social worker acting as a mediator. The Act also allows the child or children to make inputs regarding which parent they may want to live with and how much time they may want to spend with either of the parents.
The inputs allowed by the child while drafting a parenting plan are dependent on the age of the child. The child may also have a say on whatever area is considered necessary for him to make inputs.
A parenting plan can be made adaptable to suit the needs of the child, the parents, and the family. Based on this, it may assume different forms but should represent what is in the child’s best interest. There is a need for parenting plans to be revised as the child grows and growth needs change.
The plan may be reviewed regularly after a specific period, usually between six months to two years, subject to the child’s age.
Following the family law act 1975, a parenting plan must be in writing, signed, and dated by both parents of the child to be considered under the Act. This written agreement doesn’t become a legal document unless enforced by a court, and in that case, is said to be a parenting order. This implies that the parents of a child can request from a court an order based on the plan written. If this occurs, it serves the same place as any parenting order issued by a court, which bears a legal repercussion.
As long as both parents agree to the parenting plan, it can be adjusted when necessary if the court gives such allowance. Peradventure, the parents decide to change a prevailing parenting order, only the parts consistent with the terms of the new parenting plan can be enforced.
If the parents are in court in the future, the court would consider the most recent parenting plan used by the parents before issuing a parenting order if that would be of better benefit for the child. Furthermore, the court would evaluate how each parent has been compliant with their responsibilities for the child according to the terms of the parenting plan.
Making a Parenting Plan
One of the most important aspects of a divorce process is drafting a parenting plan that addresses adequate childcare. Even though a parenting plan can be developed at any phase of the divorce, it is recommended that utmost attention be given to the matters that concern children’s welfare.
The following are headings featured in drafting a parenting plan:
Parenting time schedule
The parenting time schedule for the separating parents caters to the physical custody of the child. It explains how the child’s time is allotted between them.
The court usually suggests that the time spent by both parents with the child should be the same. For some reason, this may not be the case every time. A properly drafted time schedule caters to the emotional, social, and physical needs of the child. It would detail school vacations and holiday schedules.
Best schedule for 50-50 custody
Ultimately, the best schedule is the one that suits the children and parents the most. A 50-50 custody allows the child to spend an equal amount of time with both parents and build a good relationship with each of them.
Several arrangements exist for a 50/50 parenting time schedule. They are:
- 2-2-3 rotation: the child spends two days with one parent and then moves to the other parent to spend two days as well. The next three days are to be spent with the first parent. The child then goes on the second parent for two days again, and the rotation continues in this manner.
- 2-2-5-5 rotation: for this arrangement, a seven-day plan is shuffled between both parents. The child spends two days with one parent and moves on to spend two days with the other parent. He then returns to the first parent and spends five days, then five days with the other parent.
- 3-3-4-4 rotation: this rotation arrangement is similar to the 2-2-5-5 arrangement. Three days with one parent, three days with the other, then four days with the first parent, and four days with the second.
- Weekly rotation: the child spends a week with one parent and spends a week with the other parent.
The legal custody of the child has to do with which parent has the right to information and is responsible for decision making. Very important decisions concerning the child’s life need to be made, and there has to be a plan that addresses this.
Your parenting plan should have provisions for your child’s healthcare, education, moral, cultural, and religious practices. Adequate concerns in these areas should be shown since they are key influencers of the child’s outcome in the long run.
Furthermore, include in your parenting plan decisions to be made in case of unprecedented situations like health emergencies. In as much as one would not wish things to go wrong, a good parenting plan should have contingency plans.
Legal custody usually takes one of the following forms as agreed by the parties involved:
- One Parent legal custody: Here, both parents agree that only one of the parents, either one, should have legal custody of the child while under 18 years. This parent has the liberty to make decisions that concern the child’s welfare, upbringing, education, medical care, vacations, and religion. In fact, the parent is in charge of all matters that pertain to the child as long as he remains a minor.
- Shared legal custody: Here, they both agree that it would be in the child’s best interests to share the parenting responsibilities. They realize that both parties should have a right over the child and is free to participate in all major decision-making that concern the upbringing and overall welfare.
Medical and health care
This clarifies which parent is in charge of the medical and health care. It makes clear who takes responsibility for the child’s medical bills, who makes health appointments, and who provides the health care when the child suffers an ailment and needs to stay at home. It also involves the payment for health insurance.
Education and extracurricular activities
The parenting plan should clarify responsibility for decisions on the child’s education, including the choice and location of the school, school expenses, and choice of who attends parent-teacher meetings. Also, it states who has access to the child’s educational records and what extracurricular activities are engaged in by the child.
Exchanges talk about having to transfer the child from one parent to the other. It clarifies how this should be done- the method, venue, and schedule. The parenting plan can also explain how parents should communicate when there is a change in schedule or how to reschedule parenting time.
It explains the rules to be followed by both parents in the moral upbringing of the child. Since the child is a minor, guidelines as to the food and diet of the child, the kind of associations, places to visit, the use of alcohol and tobacco, bedtime, and study routines, is under the parent’s jurisdiction as agreed by each one. Restrictions could be placed on the child when it comes to such matters.
Child and parent relationship
The parenting plan should cater to how the relationship between the parent and the child progresses, especially in the level of communication that is afforded for the child and the other parent that may not be in direct custody of the child.
Remember: Information concerning voice or video calls should be included as well.
The plan can also spell out how the parents should behave in front of the child. It could also state that no parent would speak ill of the other parent in the presence of the child or use the child as a go-between. Rather each parent is expected to motivate the child to maintain a good relationship with the other parent.
When it comes to childcare, there has to be an agreement on where the child goes for child care. Would there be a need to employ the service of a childcare provider when the parent is at work, or would it be handled by friends or relatives? Who pays for the child care services when the need arises?
The plan can also include a right of first option, where the time is transferred to the other parent if a parent is not available for scheduled parenting time.
Even though the parents may have separated or are undergoing the divorce process, there is still a need for communication between them as regards children’s progression through life. It would be beneficial that the parents should schedule a time on a regular, consistent basis when a child’s needs will be discussed between them.
In addition, it should include how plans can be modified and ways to resolve conflict.
There is a need to keep the other parent informed about the events and circumstances that affect the child’s welfare when in the custody of one of the parents. Communication between the parents should also include up-to-date contact information of each other.
Traveling and relocating with the child
There may be a need in the course of things to relocate with the child or travel. If this happens, it is necessary to agree in the parenting plan what jurisdictions are allowed for travel or relocation with the child.
It would also help that details are shared with anyone that has parental responsibility for the child. Information such as duration of stay, hotel address, and the arrangements put in place for the child’s well-being should be known to the other parent. It states who is in charge of the child’s travel documents, transportation cost, and who takes responsibility for the cost of maintenance of the documents.
Plans should be made in a parenting plan that would include how the child is to spend the holidays and session breaks. In case of a vacation, with whom will the child spend the time? Would the time be shared between both parents or alternated with each parent on different holidays?
These are questions that should be answered while making a parenting plan. They help to guide decision-making when the need arises and avoid conflict of opinions.
Your schedule should make allowance for school breaks, holidays, and special occasions like birthdays of the child or any of the parents. It could also include guidelines for family events of the different families and major holidays like Father’s Day or Mother’s Day.
Revising the plan
As the child grows and the needs of the child change, the parenting plan can be reviewed and revised into something more soothing. As long as both parents agree and the child’s best interest is represented, the parenting plan may be revised at intervals between six months to two years until the child becomes an adult at eighteen.
It should capture a way that changes can be made to the plan, the process involved, and ways to facilitate agreement in case of differences in opinion resulting in conflict.
Child support and financial information
Your parenting plan should provide information on the child support structure. It should detail how financial responsibilities are shared between parents and who bears the responsibility for the child as a dependent in the payment of taxes.
It can also include how reimbursements would be paid peradventure one parent makes the payment for something that ought to be catered for by both parents.
Special needs of the child
According to the unique needs of your child and peculiar family circumstances, the parenting plan could include provisions for such needs as deemed necessary.
There are different things to consider when coming up with your parenting plan. Some of these factors would directly affect the child or the parents but, in all, let considerations be made to suit best the needs of the child and let it be adaptable to the parties involved.
Below is the list of the things to consider:
- Childcare responsibilities: Before the separation, each parent was accountable for handling some specific childcare responsibilities. It is necessary to consider this when making a parenting plan.
- Involvement of each parent in the child’s activities: While making a parenting plan, there should be an understanding of both parties on the level of involvement expected from each parent in the child’s recreational and extracurricular activities. Are both parents expected to attend the child’s games in school? How often should they attend? Who attends PTA meetings at the child’s school? Or should it be alternated each time there’s a need to?
- Individual needs of your child: Different children have needs particular to them. Good consideration of the individual needs of your child should be taken into account in addition to the important issues for each child.
- Strengths of each parent: The unique ability of each parent should be taken into consideration in the preparation of a parenting plan. Some tasks are well suited for one parent than the other. This may help in allocating responsibilities to each parent after separation in a way that better represents the child’s interest.
- Children’s relationship with each other: In the case where there is more than one child, consideration should be given as to how the children can spend time together and if the children would want to spend individual time with one parent at a time.
- Children’s preferences: Children may have their personal opinion on whom they want to spend more time with, for reasons known to them. The child’s preference should be considered during the making of a parenting plan.
- Children’s needs above your own: Making selfish parenting plans would not be healthy for the children. During separation, parents have to prioritize the needs of their children more than their own needs when agreeing on the plans that would be used. They must consider what is in the best interest of their children.
- Protecting child from conflict and disagreements between the parents: For your children’s mental and emotional stability, the parents must consider how they intend to protect their children whenever there is a dispute. The children should not be engaged in conflict or disagreement between their parents.
- Equal time and shared parent responsibilities: Unless under peculiar circumstances, it is often recommended that each child should spend the same amount of time with each parent. Also, the responsibilities for raising the child should be shared between both parents.
Always Remember :
When coming up with your parenting plan, always remember that:
- The age of your child shapes what makes a suitable plan.
- You can have a split custody arrangement in case you have more than one child. In that case, each parent will have custody of different children.
- If the parents are a great distance apart, provisions for long-distance travel could be captured in your plan.
- For your plan to be accepted by the court, it must comply with the guidelines and custody of your state.
- If the two parents are domiciled in different states, one state usually has authority over the plans, and it is mandatory to comply with that state’s regulations.
- As your children grow and their needs become different, necessary adjustments can be made to your plan.
- If any of the parents happen to be in the military, your plan could include military provisions.
- At the early stage of separation, you can make use of a temporary parenting plan pending when a permanent custody plan is ready.
Here are free downloadable parenting plan templates that can be customized accordingly:
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
When a parent breaks a parenting plan, it is expected that such a breach should be brought to the notice of the court. If it is a parenting order or a plan agreed on by both parents, the violating parent is at risk of being held contempt by the court if violations are consistent and grave. What this means is that the parent who has violated the plan can face serious repercussions and could even be stripped off completely of any custody rights to the child or serve jail terms in worse case scenarios.
Some key things must be included in your agreement for it to be considered as a parenting plan under the Family Law Act 1975. The agreement must address child welfare and development. However, other things such as spousal maintenance or property may be included in the parenting plan but are only legally enforceable if a court order is gotten by mutual agreement.
Going through a divorce can be very stressful and more stressful if there are already children. With a well-prepared parenting plan, the parties involved can easily transition and adapt to a schedule that suits a different status and still addresses the children’s needs until they grow to adulthood.
With the information provided in this article, a comprehensive parenting plan can be created that attends to the peculiarities of those involved and make provisions for major decisions concerning the children involved.