A parenting plan is a legal document that outlines how a child will be brought up until adulthood or age when he/she reach financial and emotional independence. The parenting plan is drafted and submitted to the court before the parents get a child’s custody. A parenting plan is of use to a couple facing a divorce and has a child (or more). It guides them on how to take care of the child (children) after the divorce.
What Is a Parenting Plan?
As mentioned above, a parenting plan is a document that provides guidelines on how a divorced couple (or a couple facing a divorce) should raise their child. If you’re facing a divorce and have a child, you will have enough and more responsibilities concerning your child. Imagine taking care of your child’s doctor appointments, attending parent-teacher meetings, preparing lunches, making sure your child goes to bed on time, and being there for him during sports days and extracurricular events. As a parent, you have to be flexible and wear many hats throughout the time period your child grows into an adult. During the initial years of your child’s life, you will stay the busiest. This is where a parenting plan comes to rescue.
A parenting plan is a customized plan that will outline what you and your ex-spouse need to do for your child until he becomes capable and independent as an adult.
Why Do You Need a Parenting Plan?
Parents who are divorcing under mutual consent or on agreeable terms may not need a parenting plan. However, there are significant advantages to drafting a parenting plan on paper. Your lawyer will agree that creating a parenting plan beforehand will make the divorce procedure in court hassle-free. There are also psychological benefits of a parenting plan.
Here are some reasons as to why you should consider developing a parenting plan:
- You can make decisions about your child when he is away from you and not worry about him. As a parent, it’s important to realize your child will not always be there with you. When your child goes for visits or to other parent’s place, you won’t have to worry about how he is being taken care of. A parenting plan sets the ground rules and gives you both a chance to come to an agreement regarding future parent-child interactions.
- Having a parenting plan helps avoid unexpected surprises.
When it comes to children, you should be ready to expect the unexpected. In case, if your child is in the custody of the other parent for a while, you are likely to worry more than usual about your child. Having a parenting plan in place will prevent any pitfalls from happenings and ensures the well being of your child when he is in the custody of the other parent.
- Makes discussions easier.
Decisions such as planning for vacations, deciding how much time the child is going to spend with the other parent, splitting the expenses of the child, celebrating and attending the child’s various life events, etc. will take up a lot of your time. A parenting plan will define such decisions and makes sure everything is laid out on the table regarding your child’s welfare and more.
- A parenting plan helps prevent fights.
With a parenting plan in place, you won’t have to get into fights with your ex-spouse with regards to the upbringing of your child. You don’t have to worry about not being paid for child support or seeing your spouse make random excuses. Everything is finalized by the law and there is control over how your child’s wellbeing is ensured. If your significant other denies what they promised, the parenting plan document will serve as a reminder and legal reference.
- It’s legal.
A parenting plan has everything in writing such as who will get the custody of the child, agreements regarding parental visitations, responsibility regarding medical and emergency decisions, work visitations, and how the child will spend his time during special occasions like birthdays, holidays, and formal events. It keeps both parents accountable and financial obligations are explained clearly from the start. There’s no confusion about how each parent plays a role in the child’s life and that’s one of the biggest reason why a divorced couple should create an effective parenting plan.
- Safety Concerns, transportation logistics, etc can be included in the plan.
Often a parent may have concerns about the safety of the child when the child spends time at other parent’s house. Decisions about how a child will be moved from residence (by car, flight or bus) and sudden changes in co-parenting plan schedules that arise due to emergencies can be taken care of by creating a good parenting plan.
Types of Parenting Plans
There are different types of parenting plans available to a couple. These plans are explained below.
1. Joint Custody Parenting Plan
A joint custody parenting plan is a 50-50 parenting plan where the child spends an equal amount of time with each parent. This is great for parents who divorce on mutual terms and don’t argue with each other. There are also patterns to this plan such as 50-50 joint parenting where the parent can follow a 2-2-3 day schedule (like, where the child spends 2 days with parent A, 2 days with parent B, 3 days with parent A again). But courts don’t favour a joint custody parenting plan as it disrupts a child’s schooling schedule!
2. Infant Parenting Plan
An infant parenting plan involves letting an infant spend a short amount of time with the non-custodial parent. As the child grows or becomes more aware of the interactions, the time with the non-custodial parent is increased based on the court’s parenting plan assessment. This is also psychologically easier for the child and doesn’t strain him.
3. Long-Distance Parenting Plan
For parents who live far away from each other and weekly visits aren’t possible for them, long-distance parenting plans prove to be effective. This involves letting the child spend their summer holidays or winter vacations with the non-custodial parent.
4. Restricted Parenting Plan
The restricted parenting plan involves setting time restrictions or limitations when it comes to letting the child visit the non-custodial parent. Generally, these are supervised visits with short intervals of time allowed. For a non-custodial parent, who have a history of child abuse, sexual abuse, drugs, or any other serious life-threatening issues that affect their parenting capabilities, restricted parenting plans work well. As time goes on, the court is willing to let the non-custodial parent spend more time with the kids as long as they demonstrate proof of recovery and positive changes.
5. Normal Parenting Plan
You may have heard of the normal parenting plan to be the regular or ‘typical’ parenting plan. This involves scheduling weekly visits with the non-custodial parent and permits the child for an overnight stay every other weekend with said parent. Typical parenting plans are usually what most parents go when considering busy lifestyles and hectic work schedules.
How to Get a Parenting Plan
You can get a parenting plan by making one yourself under the guidance of a lawyer or attorney. If a parenting plan hasn’t been proposed by the court yet, you can send your proposal for approval. You should call CLEAR at 1-888-201-1014. Ultimately, the judge will decide to approve or not after looking at various criteria. The goal of the parenting plan is to make sure the child’s needs are met and he is not deprived of anything.
Things to Consider While Making a Parenting Plan
Here are a few things to consider when making a parenting plan:
How far will your spouse be living away from your kids? What’s the distance between the two homes? How will the pickup and drop off arrangements be for your child? These are important questions to consider when making a parenting plan. The geographic location must be reasonable too to ensure the child has a comfortable moving or travelling experience.
2. Parenting Schedules
A parenting plan should include parenting schedules. You should have in written who will take care of the child when he is sick or in the hospital. It should have who will take care of the child in case of special events or in unforeseen situations.
3. Vacations and Holidays
Make sure the parenting plan includes how and where the child will spend his holidays, be it school holidays and statutory holidays or summer and winter vacations. It must include how the child will spend his summer breaks and with whom. It should include if the child will spend an equal amount of time with each parent during the holidays or not. Make sure every single holiday is including in the plan.
4. Healthcare and Medical Aid
Questions related to who will take care of the child when he/she falls ill or what happens to the parenting schedule when either of the parents isn’t feeling well. Taking into consideration how much time to take off from work and making arrangements for doctor appointments are important too. Also, healthcare checkups and who will be making key healthcare decisions during times of medical emergencies should be taken into consideration.
5. Bringing Romantic Interests
Will either of you be allowed to bring along romantic partners or lovers with your kids when going on vacation? When you’re building a shared parenting plan, this should be well thought of for your child’s best interests.
6. Dealing With Conflicts in Schedules
There will be times when one parent has to deal with conflict in another parent’s schedule. An example is when every other weekend visitations overlap with special holidays. These should be well thought of and written down in the parenting plan.
7. Listing Down Options
There will be times when one parent is supposed to take care of the child visitation schedule but can’t. Sometimes life gets in the way and the child has to stay back or be sent to daycare. Listing down the available options when one of the two parents is not able to follow the plan for specific days should be included in the plan.
8. Disciplining Kids
Children can be naughty and may not listen to their parents and disciplining them from early on is important. The parenting plan should explain how to discipline the kids, what is acceptable or not, and what kinds of punishments are allowed. Anything that’s not allowed or ill for the child’s wellbeing should be clearly mentioned too.
9. Communicating with the Other Parent
How will you go about communicating with the other parent regarding changes in schedules or reminders? Will it be through email or text messages? Or will you mail them via postal services or call them up? Does the other parent have a restraining order in place and how will the child visit them if that’s the case? The answers to the above questions should be stated clearly in the parenting plan to avoid any confusion.
10. Travelling with Children
If either of the parents takes up a new job or is travelling out-of-state, will they get the option to take the kids with them? If yes, will the child get to decide to stay back or travel with the non-custodial parent and return after a while? All these things should be thought through and included in the parenting plan.
11. Schooling and Extra-Curricular Activities
The parenting plan should include the duties and responsibilities related to the child’s schooling. It should include who will attend the child’s student-teacher meetings and if something happens in school, can the non-custodial parent visit and take care of it.
12. Religious Upbringing
How will the child be raised culturally and religiously? Decisions about letting the child change their religion later or grow up with a specified religion are important too. Which parent will be making these decisions? The parenting plan must include subjects concerning religion.
13. Grandparent Visitations
Will visits to grandparents and the extended family are allowed and how often? Who will be taking the kids to these visits and how will the children communicate with the two parents during this time? Make sure to include this in the parenting plan.
Types of Parenting Schedules
There are several types of parenting schedules that should be discussed in court before taking custody of the child. We’ll discuss the most common (and preferred ones) below.
1. Equal Parenting Time Schedule
This is a 50-50 parenting schedule where the child spends an equal amount of time with each parent in a year. Unless there is a history of domestic violence, drug abuse, or any psychological problems, an equal parenting time schedule is chosen. Whether it involves weekend visits or something like 3-2-2 days (3 days with one parent, 2 days with another, and so on) will depend on the child’s schooling schedule. If the child has special needs that prevent him from adhering to this schedule, then this is discussed in court and the plan is changed accordingly.
2. Non-Equal Parenting Time
This is a schedule that favours more parenting time with the primary parent and less time with the non-custodial parent. It involves mid-week overnight visits with the child being allowed to stay for brief periods of time for every other weekend. Usually, if the non-custodial parent is not physically capable of taking care of the child or is unable to meet their needs, this schedule is preferred.
3. Long-Distance Parenting Schedule
Long-distance parenting schedule involves letting a parent who lives in the state of Arizona take care of the kids for schooling and other reasons. If the other parent lives out-of-state, they get the chance to spend time with the kids during summer and winter vacations when schools are closed to make up for the lost time.
How to Get Started with a Parenting Plan
Let’s cut to the chase. Here’s how to get started with a parenting plan:
- Write down your parenting goals, what you expect a week-by-week schedule with your child to look like, how expenses will be split up, and any emergencies that may come along the way in your parenting plan. Discuss this with your partner and tell them to draft their own version of a parenting plan. Be sure to send both these proposals to a court or discuss and refine them before submitting
- Compare the two lists and begin negotiating any terms that aren’t agreeable.
- If your child is old enough, you should ask him about their preferences/needs and anything else they may want to be included in these plans.
This guide pretty much covers what goes on in parenting plans. We hope it helps you. For more information or assistance when it comes to drafting the schedules, be sure to discuss it in court or with an attorney. It’s important to keep your child’s future and best interests in mind when making up a parenting plan since that’s what the court will favour the most. If you’ve split up on agreeable terms, you can sit down with your ex and have a talk about your various parenting goals and job changes before writing it down in paper your desired parenting plan schedules. Investing the time and thought into this process is worth it which you won’t regret!