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What Is a Parenting Plan in a Divorce and What Should It Include?

  • Mar 30, 2020
  • The Harr Law Firm

Upset children with parents fighting in backgroundIt’s not often that parents sit down and write out a formal parenting plan for their children. Most couples will verbally establish general parenting principles with one another, then sort out the rest as they go. But if you’re getting a divorce and have children with your ex, then the divorce court will very likely require you and your ex to create a formal parenting plan as part of your divorce proceedings. If you don’t know what a parenting plan is or what it should include, keep reading to find out.

What Is a Parenting Plan?

As the name implies, a parenting plan is a court-ordered document that clearly establishes how divorcing parents will share the responsibilities of caring for their children after the divorce. This may include some child custody decisions, but also delves a little deeper into how the children will be parented on a daily basis. It focuses on more day-to-day childrearing matters to ensure that, despite their divorce, both parents will have a fair say in how their children are raised, and the children will continue to receive somewhat consistent parenting from both of their parents.

What Does It Include?

The exact details of your parenting plan will be largely based on the child custody arrangements made during your divorce. However, generally speaking, most parenting plans will typically include provisions regarding the following:

  • The children’s residential schedule (i.e., where they will primarily live and how frequently they’ll stay with the other parent)
  • How important decisions regarding the children will be made (e.g., selecting a doctor, choosing a daycare, etc.)
  • How you plan to solve any disputes regarding your children’s upbringing
  • Any other necessary stipulations regarding how you and your ex will co-parent your children

It’s important to put as much detail into your parenting plan as possible so that you can avoid future confusion or disputes. Make sure that you go over the details of your parenting plan with your attorney before you agree to it, just as you would with any other divorce document.

How to Establish a Parenting Plan

Your divorce attorney and the divorce courts can provide you and your ex with assistance in developing your parenting plan. However, here are a few expert tips that you should keep in mind as you’re working on this vital document:

  1. Catalog your regular activities with your children. To the best of your abilities, go back through the various exchanges and activities that you participate in with your children. Did you drive them to school, attend their soccer game, chaperone a field trip, or take them to the doctor? Create a calendar that shows these kinds of events. This helps to create a clearer picture of what kind of regular care you are providing for your children and will make it easier to establish what your future parenting plan should look like.
  2. Prove you can provide stability for your child. Divorce courts want to know that parents can provide physical stability for their children, even after a divorce. If you’re leaving the family home, do your best to find a stable residence with enough room for your children to live in, whether on regular visits or a more permanent basis. This will help in establishing a parenting plan that is more favorable to you.
  3. Try to work amicably with your ex. Divorces can bring out the worst in people, but it’s important that you try to keep a level head and treat your ex as your partner in establishing this parenting plan. Doing so makes it more likely that you can find agreeable compromises where you may have otherwise simply fought and argued.
  4. Don’t involve your child in it. No matter your child’s age, establishing a parenting plan is the responsibilities of the parent. Your children should not be exposed to the legal matters surrounding your divorce. As parents, you know what decisions are in your child’s best interests, and you should be able to work out a parenting plan without dragging your child into it directly. If the court finds it necessary to consider your child’s wishes on matters of custody, this will be done through a guardian ad litem or parenting investigator.
  5. Finally, have some character witnesses ready. While you hopefully won’t need them, it is helpful to know of at least a few people you can call on to testify regarding your parenting relationship with your child. Be sure that each of these witnesses has something important and specific to say about you as a parent, as opposed to simply having a host of people willing to say you’re “a good parent.”

If you’re getting a divorce, be sure to contact one of our attorneys. Our expert divorce lawyers will help you with every facet of your divorce, including the parenting plan, so that you can ensure your rights as a parent are protected.