The Parenting Plan

When you’re just beginning to figure out what life’s going to look like once you separate, it can be hard to imagine what kind of parenting plan would be best for your family. There are lots of ways to work on this. You can:

  • sit down together with your spouse and discuss what you each think your children need
  • ask a mediator or child custody evaluator to help you make decisions
  • use one of the internet or other resources for sample parenting plans
  • some combination of the above.

A parenting plan is sometimes referred to as custody and visitation agreement. In this plan the parents decide and agree on a time schedule determining when the children will be with each parent and how the parents will take decision affecting the welfare, education and health of the children. Ideally both parents should sit face to face and sort out a workable parenting plan. However sometimes this may not be possible and in such circumstances it is best to use the services of a mediator to help you and your spouse reach an agreement. Always put the interest of the children before your self interest when negotiating a parenting plan. This plan is for the benefit of your children and not meant to be used as a tool to prevent your ex from having access to the children. Once you agree on a parenting plan, put it on paper and both of you must sign it. After it is signed, file it in the court. After you file the parenting plan in the court, the judge will review the plan to ensure that it does not contain any clause that is against the law. The judge will then sign the plan and your parenting plan will become a court order.

Here are some of the important issues that must be considered in when agreeing on a parenting plan.

 Basic time-sharing

You must decide where the children will stay and how the children will get from one place to another. Another issue point to consider is who, besides you and your spouse, is allowed to pick the children up and transport them

Contact outside of visitation

Agree on a phone schedule and email for the children to be in touch with the parent they’re not staying with and who will be responsible for making the contact happen

Family birthdays

Birthdays are very important for the children. You must decide where the children will spend their birthdays and who is responsible for the birthday party. You may also consider whether you want to have one party or two separate parties organized by either parent.

Holidays and Vacations

Holidays are another important issue that must be decided. You can either alternate holidays each year or split the day between parents every year to share equally. You and your spouse must agree on the definition of a holiday. You should also plan out on how you will deal with special holidays for one parent, like Mother’s or Father’s Day. Your plan should ideally specify how the children will spend their school vacations.


If each parent has a different religion, then you must determine whether there’s a middle ground, or whether with the children will practice the religion of each household when they’re there. This may be a very sensitive issue if both or either spouse is very religious.


Never ignore your children’s education. Your parenting plan should address where the children will go to school. If required be a little flexible on this issue. Consider what is in the best interest of the child.

 Going out

Children as they grow older like to go out with their friends and party. You should agree on whether your children are old enough to be going out with groups of friends or dating, and what the ground rules are.

 Privileges and discipline

When agreeing on privileges and discipline, you should consider the following:

  • Whether TV and computer time is to be limited in both homes
  • Nutrition and junk food consumption
  • What they’re allowed to see at the movies
  • Whether teens can go out with their older friends who are already driving
  • Appropriate punishment for breaking rules or failing to do chores

Medical care and insurance

You can agree on who the children see for medical and dental appointments and whether you’re required to notify the other parent every time you get medical attention for the children, even if it’s routine. You should agree on how quickly you must notify the other parent in an emergency. Medical insurance is another important issue. You should decide on who will maintain the children on their insurance, and who will pay for it if it’s not included as a job benefit and how uninsured expenses will be divided. If the child requires mental health care, make sure to address this issue in your parenting plan.

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