Creating a parenting plan is often a fundamental part of the divorce process. The plan typically works out issues such as where the children will reside and just how much parenting time each parent should receive. By crafting a comprehensive parenting plan early on, you can help prevent future fights over unanswered issues. Below, we discuss what to include in a parenting plan and how to make sure you protect both your children and yourself.
What Should Your Parenting Plan Include?
When determining what to include in a parenting plan, you and your partner should be as thorough as possible. The more thorough you are, the less you’ll have to fight about later. Beyond deciding who should have primary physical custody and visitation, your plan can also address other decisions that potentially affect the welfare and health of your children.
For instance, you can use the plan to address how much each parent should contribute financially to your children, including child support. Also, your plan can discuss which holidays your children will spend with each parent, as well as how you’ll transport and exchange your children for visitation.
The plan can determine which school your children will attend, at which hospital your children will be treated for injuries and surgeries, and which health insurance policy will cover them. Your plan can also make an agreement on your children’s school functions, visits overnight with friends, and contact with other relatives. If you or your spouse are thinking of relocating at some point, make sure your plan covers the terms and conditions for relocation with or without children.
In short, your parenting plan should be tailored to fit the unique circumstances of your family. Almost any important issue that will arise in your children’s lives may be addressed and approved by the court. In fact, your plan can even cover how future disputes over the plan will be addressed, such as through mediation.
What Should Your Parenting Plan Avoid?
Because you cannot possibly plan for every single event in your children’s lives, try to make your plan as flexible and open to change as possible. Plans that are too rigid or specific may not hold up over time. Small disputes over rigid parenting plans are costly and time consuming in court. Therefore, it is in your and your children’s best interests to draft a nuanced parenting plan that allows both parents to communicate with each other. Doing so will make it easier to settle minor disputes in the future.
Making a plan that is too vague or general is not very helpful either. When the plan uses words such as “often” or “frequent”, it’s left open to each parent’s different interpretations. So the key is to strike a balance — flexible enough to change when necessary, and clear enough to avoid confusion.