Separation and divorce can be very traumatic for children, even if the divorce is amicable. Additionally, parenting can become all that much more challenging when you and your ex-partner are no longer living together and are leading different lives. This is where parenting plans can be useful.
A parenting plan is a document that is created by both parties, and their lawyers if necessary, that sets out how the parties will parent their child or children. The plan helps to prevent any confusion, dispute, or disagreement regarding parenting, and helps to keep disruption in the child’s life at a minimum. Every parenting plan will be different, but there are some common issues that should be addressed in every plan.
What should be included in a parenting plan?
Parenting plans typically outline the following:
- Custody and access;
- What is expected of each parent; and
- How decisions regarding the children will be made.
These plans must be in the best interest of the child, as are all matters regarding children in family law. These plans should also be practical. They should not contain unrealistic expectations that the parties cannot fulfill.
Regardless of how amicable a divorce or separation may be, it is important to have a detailed parenting plan. Leaving anything up in the air could give rise to conflict. Naturally, there will be situations that arise that the parenting plan has not addressed, but the more the parties can anticipate in advance and cover in their plan, the better.
When drafting a parenting plan, it is important to address how the decisions about the children are going to be made. Parents can outline whether one parent has the ability to be the sole decision-maker in one area, while in others, the parents have to consult each other and decide together.
Here are some important things that you should include:
- Where is the child going to live? Will the child live primarily with one parent or split their time as equally as possible between the two parents? What about if there are two children? Will the children split their time? Will that time be spent together or will they alternate between parents?
- What happens if a parent moves away? Who will be living at each parties’ house (other than the parties and the children)? How far will the parties live from each other? Will the children be able to communicate with the other parent? How will they communicate? How will the parties communicate (phone, email, text, not at all)? Will the children have two sets of belonging? Or will they take their stuff with them each time they change homes?
- How are the children going to move between homes? What times are the drop-offs/pickups? What days are the children going to move between homes? Where will the drop-offs/pickups occur (at school, activities, or at the party’s homes)? What happens if one parent is sick and cannot take the children?
Vacations/holidays and Special days
- Which parent will the children spend their summer break, spring break, winter break with? Can the parent take the children on vacation during these times? Do the children have to split their time during time off from school? Where will they spend other school holidays? Where will they spend Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, and their respective birthdays? Who hosts the children’s birthdays? Who takes the children to birthday parties and social events?
- How will decisions regarding healthcare be made? Together? Does one parent have the authority to make decisions regarding dental and medical treatment, or vaccinations? Do both parties have to provide medical insurance? Who will be the children’s primary physician? Who will take the children to their appointments?
- What type of school will the children attend? Where will they attend? Who will go to parent-teacher interviews? Who will sign off on school field trips and other events? Who will volunteer at the school? Who will decide what education stream the children will take once they get to high school (different programs such as AP and IB)? Who will give permission regarding school sports? Who will get the phone calls home if the children have gotten in trouble, or if there has been an accident at school (emergency contact)?
- Which children will participate in activities? How many activities will they participate in? Who will take them to these activities? Who will pay for the activities? How will they be scheduled to ensure the time spent with each parent is fair?
- How will the children be raised religiously speaking? How much of a role will religion play in the children’s lives? Will the children observe all the holidays as prescribed by the religion? How will this impact the other aspects of their life? Is their religious upbringing to continue regardless of which home they are in? Are there any dietary restrictions that must be adhered to?
- When can the children travel with each parent? Which parent will keep the children’s passports? How will each parent consent to the children being taken out of the country? How much time does each parent get to take the children on vacation? Who pays for the vacation?
- How are the children to be disciplined? If they are disciplined at one home, will that punishment carryover to the other home? How are rules enforced? Who makes the rules regarding homework, bedtime, cellphones, electronic devices, friends coming over, etc? Or are these rules to be different at each home?
Changes to the plan and problem solving
- How are desired changes communicated? How are they implemented? How are disputes resolved?
Getting Help Drafting a Parenting Plan
As you can see, there are a lot of things to think about when coming up with a suitable parenting plan for you and your ex-partner, and these are only some of the issues you may encounter. An experienced family lawyer can help you come up with a suitable parenting plan that works for you and your family. At Borden Family Law, we can help you draft a parenting plan, regardless of how simple or complicated it may be. We understand the importance of covering all the bases when it comes to children and how they are raised following divorce or separation. Call us at 905-597-6090, or contact us online. Ask about our bundled services and flat fees.