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Child Custody | Divorce | Family

What Is a Parenting Plan, and How Can I Create One?

11 min read
Philip Ahn, Attorney

by Philip Ahn, Attorney

A parenting plan is a written agreement between parents who are no longer together that outlines how they will share the responsibility of raising their children. It covers custody schedules, decision-making, communication, and dispute resolution topics. Parenting plans are essential in helping divorced or separated parents create a stable home environment for their children during difficult times. Creating a parenting plan requires each parent to identify the specific needs of their children and work together to develop an agreement that considers those needs.

Creating A Parenting Plan

Creating your parenting plan tailored to your family’s needs is essential. A parenting plan should include an agreement between both parents regarding parenting arrangements and responsibilities involving the children.

Such a parenting plan checklist should include but is not limited to the following:

  • Legal custody
  • Physical custody
  • Visitation rights
  • Holidays/vacations
  • Discipline
  • Religion and spiritual matters
  • Communication between parents and children
  • Decision-making procedures
  • Medical care decisions
  • Finances
  • Educational issues such as attending parent-teacher conferences and school events
  • Arrangements for the extended family functions

The parenting plan should specify a typical week in a joint custody arrangement, including which parent will be responsible for picking up and dropping off children on certain days.

The parenting plan should be dynamic as the child ages.

First And Second Parent In A Parenting Plan

In a parenting plan, one parent may be referred to as the first parent and the other as the second parent.

It is simply a way to differentiate between the two parties as they work together to determine how to raise their child. The first parent is usually the co-parent with primary physical custody of the child.

Modifying A Parenting Plan

If the parenting schedule does not suit one parent, the other parent can reasonably request a modification if circumstances change. Additionally, the other parent is obligated to address any such request promptly.

The court may also order a modification of the parenting schedule if the other parent can prove that doing so is in the child’s best interest.

A Parenting Schedule While In A Joint Custody With The Other Parent

A visitation schedule should be in place if the child is of a certain age and the parents are in a co-parenting relationship.

Parenting schedules are an essential element of successful joint custody arrangements. Both parents must agree to a regular schedule that works for everyone, including the children.

A good parenting schedule should be flexible and provide for the changing needs of parents and children over time.

The schedule should include time for both parents to have physical custody of the children and for both parents to have sole or primary custody.

When both parents have physical custody, they should coordinate to create a schedule that allows the children to spend equal time with each parent.

During primary or sole custody, the co-parent with physical custody should have as much time as needed to meet the child’s needs.

The Courts Can Consider Joint Custody

Courts typically consider joint physical custody when parents are willing to cooperate to meet their child’s needs.

Each parent has a right to joint physical custody, meaning both parents have equal time with the child. Alternatively, one parent can get sole physical custody.

Avail Parent And Child Details In A Parental Plan

Child details are essential for managing the parental plan. Caregivers should be able to access information about their children that includes:

  • Age
  • Health care status
  • Educational history
  • Any other pertinent information

This information will help the caregiver make informed financial and healthcare decisions for their child’s life.

Additionally, caregivers should be able to access pertinent information about their child’s guardians, such as contact information and emergency contact information.

Caregivers should also be able to view any relevant legal information related to their child, such as birth certificates and adoption papers. This information is for several reasons, such as proving identity and age or determining potential eligibility for benefits that the child may qualify for.

Opt For A Parenting Schedule That Meets Your Needs

When making custody arrangements, it is essential to remember that children benefit from having both parents actively involved.

It is also crucial to consider the day-to-day needs of your child and the practicalities of each parent’s work, parenting style, and lifestyle when creating a parenting schedule.

Creating a parenting schedule that works for both parents and allows regular visits is crucial to meet the child’s needs. The plan should also consider your child’s age and ability to handle household transitions.

Additionally, it is essential to communicate with your partner to ensure that the parenting schedule is flexible and can accommodate changes in circumstances.

Finally, it is essential to remember that modifying parenting schedules is possible. Suppose your parenting schedule no longer meets your or your child’s needs. In that case, discussing changes with your partner and potentially consulting an attorney or mediator is essential.

Determine How To Handle Important Decisions And Legal Custody In A Parenting Plan

Parenting plans are essential legal documents in the event of a divorce or separation. It outlines all related matters involving the care and custody of the children involved.

Parents need to consider how to handle important decisions and custody when creating a parenting plan.

When making important decisions regarding the child, parents must consider each other’s beliefs, values, and perspectives, as they may differ.

Decisions such as education, religious upbringing, medical treatments, and more should be consensus-based to ensure that both parents agree.

If the parents cannot mutually agree, they should consider having an impartial third-party such as a mediator, to facilitate the decision-making process.

Financial Obligations In A Parenting Plan

A parenting plan should contain a detailed outline of both parents’ financial obligations, including child support and any additional costs associated with raising the child.

It should also include a statement on how parents expect to cover medical and educational expenses and other costs related to the child.

Additionally, the plan should list the annual expenses each co-parent is responsible for and in what amount.

Finally, it should state a method to divide any unexpected costs arising during the parenting period. Parents can avoid disputes by setting out all financial obligations and responsibilities in advance to meet their child’s needs.

Identify What’s In Your Child’s Best Interests When Drafting Your Parenting Plan

When drafting a parenting plan, keeping your child’s best interests in mind is essential. You and the other co-parent should consider the following:

  • The age and maturity of your child
  • The types of activities they enjoy
  • Their individual needs
  • Any mental or physical health conditions they may have

The plan should also provide your child with sufficient time and access to both parents so that they can maintain close relationships.

Other important considerations are spending time at each parent’s residence and handling the child’s decisions, such as:

  • Holidays
  • School breaks
  • Special occasions

Finally, you should include clauses that ensure parents can communicate openly and effectively about the following:

  • The child’s health
  • Education
  • And general welfare

Focus On Your Objectives In A Parenting Plan

Parents must identify and prioritize their objectives when negotiating a parenting plan. Setting reasonable and achievable goals should be the priority for both parties.

Consider the following when developing your parenting plan:

  • What are your long-term goals for your children?
  • What is the best way to divide parenting responsibilities?
  • Is there a way to foster positive communication between both parents?
  • What is the best way to ensure parents are actively involved in significant decisions?
  • How can technology effectively facilitate communication and interaction between both parents?
  • How can a co-parenting plan include mutual respect, trust, and open communication
  • What are the best ways to ensure your child’s physical and mental health matter when making decisions about their future?

An effective parenting plan requires regular reviews to ensure it reflects your children’s and parents’ current needs.

Identify Your Parental Rights In A Parenting Plan

Parents should be aware of the legal rights they have regarding their children. Knowing what is legally allowed by both parents can provide clarity and guidance when negotiating a parenting plan.

Parents should consider the following rights:

  • Right to shared legal custody
  • Right to visitation and contact with the child
  • Right to make decisions about the child’s education and healthcare
  • Right to have access to medical and school records
  • Right to attend extracurricular activities with the child
  • Right to use technology, such as video chat, to communicate with the child
  • Right to reasonable contact with the other parent and access to information about the child

Adhere To State Parenting Plan Signing Requirements

Adhering to the state’s parenting plan signing requirements is crucial to ensure both parents can maintain their rights.

As a co-parent, you are responsible for being aware of these requirements and working with the other parent to create an agreement that works for both of you.

The state requirements may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so it is essential to consult with an attorney to determine the exact details that apply to your situation.

In general, state requirements for signing a parenting plan include the following:

  • Both parents must read and understand the document before signing
  • Each co-parent must sign and date the plan in front of a notary
  • The notary should provide proof of the plan’s authenticity
  • The parenting plan should be available in court within a certain period.

How To Submit Your Parenting Plan To The Court

If you and your co-parent have created a parenting plan, it is essential to submit it to the court. Doing this provides legal protection for you and your family. Here is a step-by-step guide to filling a parenting plan in the court:

  1. Submit forms: Review and complete the necessary documents from your local courthouse. Depending on the state or county, these may include a petition to establish a parenting plan, certification of compliance, or other forms.
  2. Include supporting documents: Along with the forms, you may need to include other documents, such as a signed parenting plan or birth certificate.
  3. File the forms: Make sure to submit all the documents with the appropriate filing fee to the court clerk.
  4. Schedule a hearing: Once you have filed, you may need to set a hearing date with the court. You and your co-parent can present the parenting plan to a judge for approval.
  5. Prepare for the hearing: Review your parenting plan before the hearing. Also, make sure to dress appropriately and bring any necessary documents.

Can You Draft Your Parenting Plan?

Yes, you can draft your parenting plan. A parenting plan is a document that outlines the legal and physical rights of each co-parent regarding their child or children. It is a legal agreement that can be enforced by the family court if necessary.

When creating your parenting plan, it is crucial to consider the best interests of your child(ren).

The plan should include details on how co-parents will make decisions regarding their children and how they will share physical custody and health insurance costs and provide an appropriate timeline for parenting time. It should also include a plan for disputes, if necessary.

What Paperwork Must You Submit For A Child Custody Agreement?

When filing a custody agreement, certain documents must be submitted for the court to review and approve your request. These documents include the following:

  • Custody Agreement – The custody agreement states the terms and conditions of the custody arrangement between you and your ex-partner. It should include information such as who has primary custody of the child and how to arrange visitation rights.
  • Financial Declaration – A financial declaration is vital to determine the child’s needs and what type of support each parent can provide, including information about both parents, such as income levels and assets.
  • Education Plan – The education plan outlines the plans for the child’s education, including where they will attend school and who will be responsible for paying tuition or other educational expenses.
  • Parenting Plan – The plan outlines how the co-parents will co-parent through communication and decision-making processes. It also outlines how the parents will share custody and visitation schedules.
  • Character Reference Letters – These letters emanate from people who know both parents and can provide information about their parenting ability, lifestyle, and character.

What Information Should You Include In Your Parenting Plan?

When creating a parenting plan, it is essential to include details to help you and your co-parent understand each other’s expectations and responsibilities, including information about the following:

  • Custody and visitation: Who will have legal custody, and what is the visitation schedule?
  • Transportation: Who will transport the child between homes, and how will that be handled?
  • Communication: How will parents communicate with each other and the child?
  • Parenting Decisions: Who is responsible for making decisions about the child’s health, education, and other important matters?
  • Financial support: Is responsible for providing financial support to the minor child?
  • Holiday and Vacation Schedules: What are the expectations for holidays such as Father’s and Mother’s Day, vacations, and summer breaks?
  • Resolving Conflict: What steps to take to resolve parental disagreements?

Drafting a parental plan yourself can be very difficult and time-consuming. Knowing where to begin and how to handle all the legal aspects is hard.

Do you want to risk doing it wrong? Specific errors can leave you vulnerable in family court and cost you money in the long run.

An unbundled attorney can provide practical legal support whenever you need it without breaking the bank. The rates charged by an unbundled attorney are affordable and typically range from $500 to $1,500, whereas a typical lawyer may charge $5000 or higher.

Unbundled legal services may not be suitable for all cases, but they can be beneficial when you only need a lawyer for a limited amount of assistance.

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