A comprehensive co-parenting is best gift you can give your children! Admittedly putting together a solid, child-centered plan can be daunting. Because the best interest of your children will be at the forefront of every decision, the best results will come from working closely with your co-parent on the details. Your plan can be as specific or general as is practical for your family situation. But keep in mind that the more specific your plan, the fewer future conflicts you will have to address.
Whether you are preparing the plan with or without the help of a professional to create, be prepared to make decisions in the following areas:
- Custody Designations
- Legal custody generally defines who will have the right and responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, safety, education, and welfare of a child. Joint legal custody (the most common type) means both parents share in the decision making.
- Physical Custody generally defines who the children will live with during the weeks and seasons of the year. Physical Custody includes details and logistics regarding the parenting schedule, school arrangements, healthcare, daycare arrangements, and other matters meant to keep the children safe and healthy. Joint physical custody is often most desirable and works best if parents live relatively close to each other. What follows are suggestions for inclusion in your parenting plan.
- Parenting Schedule:
- Daily Schedule: Include details of which home children will live in on which days. Details such as drop-off and pick-up times/locations, school/daycare expectations, transportation, homework, and special extra-curricular events, such as back-to-school night, school fair, talent shows, etc. should be outlined.
- Children’s Belongings: Identify where items, such as clothes, school items, and toys will primarily reside and who will be responsible for ensuring agreed upon belongings are included when children are switching custody (dropping off or receiving parent).
- Holiday and Vacation Schedule: Include long weekends, holiday and summer breaks, on/off track school times, religious holidays, and minor holidays, such as Halloween, Mother’s/Father’s Day, and 4th of July. Be clear about drop-off and pick-up times and locations.
- Extra-Curricular activities: Outline activity enrollment consent, how to handle when the commitment requires assistance or interferes with schedule with other parent, and handling payment.
- Special Events: Don’t forget provisions for special events such as birthdays, weddings, family gatherings, etc.
- Alternate Caregivers: Include childcare expectations when a parent is unavailable during their designated time.
- Travel arrangements: Outline notification timelines on when and where parent will travel with children.
- Special Considerations: Include unique considerations regarding curfew, media usage, diet, visiting extended family, etc.
- Schooling Arrangements:
- Location & Approval: Outline where the children will attend school and how potential school changes will be handled.
- Financial: Determine who will pay tuition or additional costs (such as yearbooks, activities, etc.).
- Transportation: Outline school transportation expectations for both households.
- Communication: Consider how will school communication be handled, such as report cards, teacher conferences, scholastic and diagnostic tests, and enrichment classes.
- Homework: Determine if homework expectations should be included in the plan.
- Health and Welfare Arrangements:
- Identify who will be responsible for choosing and paying for the primary medical, dental, vision insurance.
- Consider which parent will be the primary contact for doctors.
- Outline how medical out-of-pocket payments such as co-payments and prescription costs will be handled.
- Discuss how regular appointments, including vaccinations, will be handled.
- Outline the guidelines for making regular and emergency medical decisions.
- Discuss how legal (and illegal) substance use will be handled, such as alcohol, drugs, smoking, etc.
- Media Type and Usage
- Discuss if TV/movie/internet/app/game ratings should be limited.
- Include guidelines on acceptable viewing and hours of media usage for internet, phone, TV, gaming, etc.
- Additional Activity Guidelines
- Outline activities to be prioritized such as religious, sports, academic, activities etc.
- Discuss activities to be avoided, such as skydiving, hunting, or other inherently dangerous activities.
- Future Relationships:
- Include guidelines for timing of new partner/relationship introductions and notification to co-parent.
- Consider whether to include what the children will call new the partner/spouse.
- Discuss expectations for timing and notification of new partner sleepovers and co-habitation.
A parenting plan designed to minimize future conflict will also include the following simple sample agreements:
- Communication Agreements (with children and each other):
We commit to
- Respectful, loving, and stable relationships,
- Not speaking derogatorily about each other or our families,
- Not attempting to curry favor to the detriment of the other parent,
- Communicating via phone, text, email and in person.
- Disagreement/Dispute Resolution:
When controversy arises, we will
- 1st consult together, if unsuccessful then;
- Meet with expert in field related to the dispute, if unsuccessful then;
- Return to legal professional (mediator, attorney), if unsuccessful then;
- Return to court for final decision.
Tips on saving money and keeping the peace!
- Remember, children are stakeholders in the plan you create. Older children need to have a voice in those things that affect them. Giving them a voice and consideration goes a long way to creating a parenting plan that works for all.
- Have good intentions and a desire to work together (it will save you time, money, and sanity)
- Reflect the current interests and needs of your children and be flexible enough to revise it as your children grow older.
You and your co-parent really are the best suited to come up with your parenting plan. Creating details together means you’re both more likely to be satisfied with the results, as opposed to having a plan assigned to you by a judge. Remember: If you’ve written a plan on your own, you will likely want to have it reviewed by a family law professional before submitting it to the court to ensure it has included all of the necessary agreements.
If you’d like help with creating a successful parenting plan, contact us for assistance and a parenting plan template to help ensure your most important details are included. Family Peacemaker helps divorcing families in Orange County and all throughout California regain control, remain amicable and save money.