What Is a Parenting Plan?

When a family goes through separation or divorce, many changes follow. What used to be a partnership when it came to raising children and making decisions is no longer the same. In fact, some days can be an all-out war.

How do two parents work together for the best interest of their children when they find it difficult to agree on anything? Not only do parents often have different ways of raising their children, but divorce can add the element of bitterness over many other issues as well that may have nothing to do with parenting. Nevertheless, these issues are often used to pull at the children from either side, leaving them helpless and in the middle. This is where a parenting plan comes in.

A Decision to Put the Children First

A parenting plan is both parents making a decision to put the needs of their children as top priority and come up with a plan that will be in the best interest of each child. A parenting plan can include many areas where parents have to work together and make decisions regarding their children.

The plan is basically a list of parenting choices that you have agreed to compromise on and work towards a common ground. Although you may no longer agree on much, it is important to try to put your differences aside for the sake of your children.

A Way to Minimize Future Conflict

A parenting plan is a great way to minimize conflict that may happen in the future by setting out guidelines before conflict even arises. It can even provide details such as how you and your child’s other parent are going to communicate, whether it is by phone, email, text etc. If you and your child’s other parent are unable to discuss anything in a positive manner, a parenting plan can specify how you will communicate in order for conflicts to be avoided.

If you don’t think you will ever need a parenting plan, now is the time to get one because you are sure to disagree over something in the future and it is wise to discuss preferred decisions before negative emotions spill into the discussion. If the relationship is already stressful, do not delay in getting a parenting plan laid out.

An Easy Way to Find Answers

A parenting plan is a great resource when you need to make a decision regarding your children, but you are unsure of what authority you have. A well thought out parenting plan will have enough details in it that you can find answers without constantly having to contact the other parent or your lawyer for those answers.

Knowing whether you need permission from your child’s other parent when signing them up for a school trip or taking them to the doctor is not something you want to be guessing at constantly. A parenting plan will give each of you the peace of mind that you can make decisions within your boundaries and not end up with legal consequences because of accidentally stepping outside those boundaries. It can also assure you that your child’s other parent will not overstep their boundaries and leave you out of the decision process.

What to Include in Your Parenting Plan

What should a parenting plan include? There are many things that should be covered. Here are some general ideas of what you may want to include in your parenting plan.

Living Situation

This is one of the most important and basic things to agree on. How will custody be arranged and which parent or parents will the child live with? Who will the child be with on holidays and other special days? Will there be specific times, places, and locations for drop-offs and pick-ups? Who decides whether a parent is allowed to move and where?

When children are with one parent, how often and through what means is the other parent to communicate with them? If a parent must miss visitation, will it be skipped or made up?


The area of health care for the children must be dealt with before any issues arise. Some areas to decide on are things like who will make medical and dental decisions for your children, and who is responsible for taking the children to appointments. Will one parent keep the child’s health card or will it follow the child from one home to another? Is one parent going to claim the children’s health expenses and who should that be?


Your child’s education is another area to remember when writing the plan. Arguments can erupt over where the child should go to school and who gets to make those decisions. Is your child going to attend public school, private school, or be homeschooled? Which parent will attend parent-teacher conferences and who signs permission slips for field trips? Is either parent allowed to remove the child from school, and for what reason?

Other Areas

There are many other areas that require careful thought as well. Who chooses what religion your child will be taught? Which parent is going to enroll the children in extra-curricular activities and be responsible for getting them there? Who can travel with the children and who keeps their passports and other documents? Do both parents have to be in agreement over these decisions?

Agreeing how parents should communicate is essential as well. Will you text, email, phone, or meet in person? How will conflicts be resolved?

Co-parenting is not an easy task. A parenting plan can minimize problems that can arise from it. Write down what you would like to be decided in your parenting plan, and draw also on the experiences of friends who have been there. Use these ideas as a springboard for discussion so you can create a parenting plan that will allow you to co-parent successfully in the many years to come.

A parenting plan is one of the best things you can do after the break-up of a family. Whether you are having trouble communicating with your child’s other parent or not, it is wise to make a parenting plan and agree to work together for the best interest of your child, for the rest of your co-parenting existence together.

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