A parenting plan is a written and detailed document that lays out how you and your co-parent will support and parent your children after divorce. It includes things like time with the children, holidays, extracurriculars, religion, vacations, visits with extended family, flexibility in schedules, communication between the parents and children, and even how you communicate with your co-parent.
Having a well-planned out and detailed parenting plan can help you avoid conflict and work cohesively with your ex-spouse. Think of it as a roadmap: directions guiding each parent where they need to go and how they need to get there. If you and your ex face some sort of problem, the parenting plan is where you should look for a solution.
Regular Parenting Time Schedule
Your parenting plan should include the day-to-day routine of your kids. This is any day that you aren’t on vacation or there isn’t a holiday. Who gets the kids on what days? How do you communicate with the kids and your co-parent? Typically, depending on your specific situation and the custody agreement you have, the parent who has the kids on certain days is responsible for school pick-up, doctor’s appointments, and getting kids to and from extracurriculars.
Travel and Vacations
Which parent gets to take the children on vacations, and when do they get to do it? The parenting plan should outline when vacations are planned, transportation, who is paying for plane tickets and other costs, who is permitted to travel with the children, and any other important details that come with travel and vacation plans.
Who spends what holidays with who? Will you switch off on major holidays? Consider holidays that are parent specific, such as Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. Something else to consider that can cause conflict is if you are allowed to switch days, and if so, how much notice is needed?
Extracurriculars, parent-teacher conferences, school events, and school choice is essential to include in your parenting plan. Who will attend parent-teacher conferences? Will you and your co-parent go together, or will you go separately? What school will the children attend? Will the children do extracurriculars? If so, make sure to account for if the extracurriculars take place on the other parent’s time. There are going to be unavoidable situations that require compromise and flexibility, so getting even the minute details in is crucial for avoiding arguments down the road.
Religion and Culture
If you and your spouse differ when it comes to religious preference, include it in your parenting plan. Be sure to outline religious upbringing, as well as what cultural activities the children can and will take part in.
Health Care and Medical Access
Who makes decisions about medical or dental procedures? Will you make decisions together or does one parent have the ultimate say? If there is an emergency at school, which parent is notified? If there is an emergency at home, which parent notifies the school? Who submits claims for insurance? If a child is ill, who is responsible for taking care of them or taking them to the doctor? If your child is special needs, this raises questions like who is responsible for making decisions about their physical and psychological needs, as well as whose job it is to make arrangements for special care, medicine, and financial requirements.
How will relocation be presented to the other parent, and is relocation allowed at all? Does one parent have a certain number of days to let the other parent know that they want to move? If one parent does move, how will time be redistributed or scheduled if the move is over a certain distance?
In your parenting plan, it is important to determine behavior surrounding a new partner and/or blended families. When will you introduce your new partner to your kids? Will your kids spend time with your new partner? Is your new partner permitted to spend the night? If your new partner has children, when will they be introduced to your children, and how much time will they spend together?
Alterations to the Parenting Plan
It is important to discuss when a parenting plan modification is required. This might be necessary if you finalize your plan and then realize that there is a scheduling issue, if one parent gets re-married, or if there is a conflict surrounding an element of the parenting plan that can’t be fixed simply by sitting down together. In your parenting plan, layout how this process will work and how you and your co-parent will communicate.
How will you communicate with your co-parent? How will your kids communicate with you? There are several phone apps that help with co-parenting:
There are hundreds of co-parenting resources at your disposal that can improve the way you communicate with your kids and fellow co-parent.
Your parenting plan should be a detailed, child-oriented, and cohesive outline of how you plan to raise your children as a divorced couple. A parenting plan is a tool that can help you avoid conflict and keep your children’s best interests in mind, which should always be the top priority. Because of the detailed and at times complicated nature of parenting plans, having an attorney look over your agreement before finalizing it is important.
The attorneys at Brown & Dutton would be honored to stand by your side during this difficult time. Jenni, Lance, and Tracy are experienced, transparent, and compassionate Georgia family lawyers that have been practicing attorneys more than 30 years. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and begin planning for your future!
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