What is a Parenting Plan?

A Parenting Plan is an agreement signed by a Judge that spells out the custody arrangement and guidelines both parents are court ordered to abide by. Once completed and agreed upon, both parents must sign. This document may be developed by both parents in a Mediation setting or in a court conference room with guidance from either parties’ legal counsel.

This document will set the determined custody schedule and arrangements, exchange times and location, and order specific behavior/protocols/courtesy around various co-parenting situations.

Once the custody arrangement court order has been signed by the Judge, it will be accompanied by a signed Parenting Plan and Physical Custody Schedule, to ensure Co-Parenting efforts and reduce any hostility, miscommunication, and manipulation between the parents. Whether your custody complaint has yet to be filed with the courts or you are about to step into Mediation, accurately preparing this document and a Physical Custody schedule is critical.

Parenting Plans and Physical Custody Schedules vary depending on the needs of the child and the current ability for the parents to effectively Co-Parent. Some Parenting Agreements must spell out all the details because one or both parties have a habit of taking advantage of the other. Other Parenting Agreements don’t need to monitor every behavior because the parents can communicate amicably with one another.

Creating a Parenting Plan

You should actively contribute your thoughts and concerns to the overall Parenting Plan because it will essentially dictate how/when you will communicate with the other parent and how/when you will be with your child. Some parents fail to address specific topics of concern, which can lead to manipulation and create further struggle within co-parenting efforts. It’s important to know what topics to address and what kind of physical custody schedule arrangement is best suited for your child. Once your agreement and schedule is signed off by the Judge, it is protected by the law.

If you are co-parenting with a difficult person, you will need to be extra cautious when determining what and how items are phrased in the Parenting Agreement. Some parents will interpret terms in an agreement differently from one another. It’s important to be very clear, thorough and avoid the pitfalls that will put a wrench in your co-parenting efforts.

Example topics to include in your Parenting Plan:

  • The physical custody schedule with exchange time(s) and location(s)
  • Medical care and Emergency protocols
  • Communication methods
  • Keeping of child’s records
  • Out-of-State and International travel guidelines
  • Which parent will claim child tax credit on which alternating years
  • Holidays that each parent with have with the child on which alternating years
  • The amount of vacation time each parent is entitled to have with the child each year

See a well written Example Parenting Agreement