What Is a Parenting Plan?

Posted in Child Custody,Child Support,Divorce on March 15, 2017

In a divorce proceeding, both the courts and the parents are focused on what is in the best interest of the children involved. Routine and predictability are important for children, as they provide emotional stability and allow them to adjust to a new and difficult situation. Parenting plans go a long way to providing this predictability, giving children their best shot at adapting to a new environment and flourishing.

What Is a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is, at its simplest, a written description of visitation protocols. It’s usually incorporated into a marital settlement, and has the same weight as a court order. Generally speaking, a parenting plan outlines:

  • Custody arrangements. For example, a parenting plan may provide physical custody to the mother, but legal custody to both parents. This means both parents will have a say in the upbringing and welfare of the child.
  • This will provide a detailed outline of when the noncustodial parent visits the children, for example, overnights and weekends.
  • Protocols for holidays, vacations, and birthdays
  • Schooling protocols, with enough detail for the noncustodial parent to participate
  • Recreation, including established rules for dating, screen time, and extracurricular activity.
  • Medical care plans and dental hygiene
  • Dispute resolution, which will provide a plan for how a third party will mediate a dispute when the parents can’t come to a resolution themselves
  • Custody modifications and updates, as needed.

A good parenting plan is, at its best, a roadmap that will serve as a navigation system for raising a child after divorce. At its worst, it may lead to worse outcomes for your child.

The Dangers of a Mediocre Parenting Plan

Most parents will have a parenting plan as a part of their divorce settlement, so this is an essential step in the process you can’t overlook. Consider the possible negative ramifications of a lackluster plan:

  • Your child may miss out on time with one parent.
  • Your child may miss out on participating in fun activities with their friends or family.
  • They may not receive essential psychological care in a timely fashion, if needed.
  • They may not receive adequate preventive or dental care.
  • They may feel frustrated, angry, or displaced when they perceive their lives aren’t working well as the result of your divorce.

In short, a parenting plan is useful for creating much-needed routine for your child. Both you, your partner, and your children can only benefit from a well-designed, thoughtful plan.

The Basics of a Parenting Plan

We’ve already discussed what goes into a parenting plan, but now it’s time to delve into the details. Here’s what a good parenting plan is, and isn’t:

  • A good parenting plan provides language that is specific enough, but also general enough. You want it to be detailed enough to be useful, but broad enough to be flexible.
  • It provides a roadmap for parents to follow, no matter how difficult it may be. The hardest part of a parenting plan is sticking to it – your child will regain trust when both parents are collaborating to make the plan work.
  • It is essential for parents to work on this plan together, particularly with young children who crave routine most of all. It’s also important for both parents to pay attention to one another’s schedules and respect them, to avoid conflict.
  • A parenting plan isn’t a rigid document. Though it’s a legally binding document, it may also be updated to address the evolving needs of the child. At its best, a parenting plan is elastic.

Parenting plans are a must if you’re going through a divorce proceeding with children. An attorney will help you create a document that provides much-needed predictability for your child, giving them a chance to trust and flourish emotionally.