How to Make a Parenting Plan

Do You Need a Parenting Plan?

If you have children and are separating from or divorcing the child's other parent, you need to come up with a parenting plan. The parenting plan is the document that has all the information for how you and the child's other parent will continue to care for and provide for your children after you separate.

The plan should show where the child spends every day of the year, have provisions and stipulations to help the parents rear the child, and fulfill the needs of the child. Because the parenting plan is so important, you should spend enough time and effort on it to make it good. Here are some guidelines to help you make the best possible plan for you and your child.

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Get a Smart Start to Parental Planning

What is legal and physical custody? Should you Sole Custody Parenting Plan ?

To get started on your parenting plan, you should try to make some initial decisions. First, try to decide what type of legal and physical custody arrangement you want. Legal custody refers to the authority that parents have to make decisions for the child.

You and the other parent need to decide who will be responsible for making decisions about health care, education, religion, etc. You can choose to share legal custody--this is called joint custody, or one parent can have sole legal custody and be responsible for all decisions.

Physical custody refers to the physical time that the parents have with the children. In a joint physical custody situation, the parents both have substantial time with the children. The time doesn't have to be exactly equal, but it is close to that. In a sole physical custody situation, one parent has the child for most of the time, and the other parent has visitation.

Parenting plans can be successful with any type of custody arrangement. You just have to figure out what is right for your child and for your situation. Many parents have a joint legal custody arrangement with sole physical custody.

Or, they have joint legal and physical custody. Joint custody works best if the parents live close by each other, the child does well adjusting to new situations, the parents are able to communicate and resolve disputes, etc.

Sole Custody Parenting Plan Scenario

When is the child with each parent?

After you've decided about physical and legal custody, you need to make a schedule of they physical custody. The schedule should show where the child is every day of the year and should appoint the time that each parent has with the child. This is also called the parenting plan calendar because you want to lay out all of this information in a calendar.

To make the schedule, it is recommended to get a calendar to mark in the time. Then, you can create your repeating cycle of custody and visitation. To do this, write out the custody schedule for an amount of weeks, and then you repeat it throughout the year.

For example, if you decide to alternate weeks of custody with an evening visit to the other parent you mark in the first week of custody for the one parent then mark the second week of custody for the other parent. You write in a weekday visit for both weeks. Then you take this two-week schedule and repeat it throughout the year.

The parenting time schedule must also contain a holiday schedule, vacation time, and any special events. To add these to the calendar, you simply go through the holidays and assign custody to each one. Each parent should have about the same amount of holiday time. Then you mark in vacation time and any special events where the custody changes.

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Custody Provisions and Stipulations

Parenting plans work best when there are custody provisions and stipulations. Provisions and stipulations are the rules that the parents follow that help the plan run more smoothly. Basically, if you want to make sure that the other parent does or doesn't do something with the child, you need to put a provisions in the plan about it.

Parents commonly spell out the terms of legal custody in the provisions. If you decide to have joint legal custody, you need to decide how to share the responsibility. You can assign each parent certain decisions to make, require that the parents make all decisions together, give the parent authority to make decisions when the parent has the child, etc. The more specific you can be, the better things will work out.

Stipulations can also help parenting plan calendars run more smoothly. You can provisions that address how changes can be made to the schedule, how transportation to visitation will work, where exchanges will occur, etc.

Other stipulations you might want to consider include: how you and the other parent will resolve disputes, what information the parents should share with each other (phone numbers, addresses, etc), how the parents will decide on extra-curricular activities for the child, how the plan can be modified, etc.

Custody Tips to Follow

The Finished Plan

If you follow this parenting plan template you should end up with a thorough, complete parenting plan. This plan can help you and the other parent provide for the needs of your child.

It is important to keep track of custody issues and the visitation time. If there is a problem with a parent dropping off or picking up the child at the right time, you should note the actual time of visitation compared to the scheduled time. You can then show the other parent the discrepancy so they can change. If there are still problems, you can go to court and have the plan modified. You can also keep notes about visitation and other issues.

Once the court approves a parenting plan, also referred to as a parenting agreement, it is a legal document. Each parent is bound by law to follow it. If you want to make changes, you need to go through the court to do so.