Originally Published 07/11/2017 | Updated 02/20/2021
When child custody and/or visitation plans are made, agreed to, and documented in writing, it is called a parenting plan.
Parents often build their own plans. However, guidance from an attorney is essential to ensure the plan is workable and considers all the important factors. If parents cannot agree, a plan will be created and ordered by a judge. Not surprisingly, you may find divorce proceedings to be smoother if the parents are able to come to an agreement about some or all of the parenting plan.
The most obvious factor to decipher is scheduling: When will I have the kids? When will they go to the other parent’s home? What do the exchanges look like? However, until it comes to the point of separating parenting duties, several topics may be overlooked that you should consider:
Your highest priority should be not only the physical needs of the children involved but also their social and emotional needs. Consider the timing of exchanges, community, siblings or other family relationships, travel time, lifestyles, capabilities of each parent, preferences of the child, and any history of danger or abuse.
Are you going to share the cost of things like medical co-payments or daycare fees? If a parent wants to enroll the child in an after-school activity, who will pay for that, and who will be responsible for transportation to/from the activity? It may be decided that child-related expenses will typically be covered by the child support, or expenses such as child care, extracurricular activities, summer camps, travel, etc. will be paid for by one or both parents.
How will dental or medical decisions be made? If a child is sick, who will take time off work to stay with him/her?
Will both parents attend parent-teacher conferences or other events? Who will decide if the child misses school for travel or other reasons besides illness? What school will the child attend?
You may want other items covered in your parenting plan such as diet, religion, values, safety requirements like bike helmets, disciplinary actions, structured bedtime, limitations for use of electronic devices, and many other things that may be important to you. Now is a good time to address these so an agreement can be drafted to avoid future discord.
If you cannot create a plan together, consider recording your ideas separately on the above topics and review them with a family law professional such as Daniel Willems.