Making a Parenting Plan or Agreement

Your parenting plan or custody agreement outlines how you and the other parent will continue to care and provide for your children after you separate. An effective plan is personalized to fit the needs of your family situation and contains the following information.

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Parenting time schedule

Your parenting time schedule shows when your child is with each parent. Your schedule should include the daily living schedule, holidays, and vacation time. Consider the physical, emotional and social needs of your child as you make your schedule.

Your plan must describe your schedule in legal terms so the schedule is very clear. You can also make a calendar so you can see when the children are with each parent.

Legal custody

Your plan must designate who has legal custody and the authority to make decisions for and about your children. You can also specify if both or only one parent has access to a child's school or medical records and information.

Medical and health care

Your plan should contain medical and health care information that explains how the parents will pay for medical and dental costs and how the parents will provide medical insurance for the children.

Your plan can also include information about how the parents will choose health providers for the children, who is responsible for making health appointments, and who will take care of a sick child who needs to stay home.

Education and extracurricular activities

The education information in your plan includes where your child will attend school, how the parents will choose the child's school, who pays for school expenses, and who attends parent-teacher conferences and school open houses.

You can also have information about how the parents decide on extracurricular activities for the child, who attends the activities, and who pays for them.

Exchanges

Information about exchanges in your plan help your schedule run smoothly. You need to decide where exchanges take place and who drives the children for exchanges.

Your plan can also explain how the parents will communicate about schedule changes and rescheduling parenting time.

Parenting guidelines

Parenting guidelines are rules in the parenting plan that both parents agree to follow as they raise the children. You can have guidelines about discipline, food and diet, bedtime routines, tobacco and alcohol use around the children, etc.

You can also have rules about who is able to live in the household when a parent has the child.

Child and parent relationships

Your plan can protect your child's relationships with both parents. You can include information about telephone and video calls and other communication between the child and the parents.

You can also specify that each parent will encourage the child to have a good relationship with the other parent, that neither parent will speak negative comments about the other parent in front of the child, and that the parents will not use the child as a messenger.

Child care

Your plan can explain where your child goes for child care when the parents work, how the parents will decide on child care for the child, and who will pay for child care.

You can also include the right of first refusal which says that if a parent isn't available for scheduled parenting time the other parent is offered the time first.

Parent communication

The information in your plan about parent communication should include how the parents will communicate and what issues they will communicate about. You should also describe how the parents will resolve disputes and make changes to the plan.

Your plan can also say that the parents will have updated contact information for each other.

Traveling and relocating with the child

Your plan can say how much vacation time each parent has with the child each year and include provisions about traveling and relocating with the child.

Travel provisions could include requirements about obtaining and using a passport for the child, providing an itinerary to the other parent when traveling with the child, and/or having a parent give notification when traveling with the child.

Relocating provisions can include that a parent cannot move the child out of a city or county and that notice must be given if a parent is moving a child.

Revising the plan

Your plan must contain information about how you and the other parent will revise the plan as it becomes necessary. You can have a process for reviewing the plan and making revisions, have information about how a parent can suggest changes to the plan, and have a way for the parents to resolve disagreements about revisions to the plan.

Special needs of the child

You can include provisions in your plan to address any special considerations for your child or your family situation.

Child support and financial information

Your plan can include your child support information, specify which parent will claim the child as a dependent for taxes, and describe how parents will handle reimbursement when one parent pays for something that both parents are responsible for.

Considerations when making your parenting plan

Here are some things to consider as you make your custody plan:

  • The childcare responsibilities that each parent has had before the separation.
  • The involvement of each parent in the child's recreational and extracurricular activities.
  • The individual needs of your child and the important issues for each of your children.
  • The strengths of each parent.
  • How the parents want to share parenting responsibilities.
  • Your children's relationships with each other and if your children need individual time with each parent.
  • Your children's preferences.
  • How you and the other parent will put your children's needs above your own.
  • How you and the other parent will protect your children from conflict and disagreements between the parents.
  • How you will tell your children the details of your parenting plan.

Your should also remember that:

  • Your plan must comply with your state custody guidelines and laws in order for the court to accept it.
  • Your child's age impacts what is appropriate for your plan.
  • You can include military provisions in your plan if one or both parents is in the military.
  • When parents live in different states, one state has jurisdiction over your plan and you must follow the laws of that state.
  • You can include provisions for long distance travel in your plan if the parents live a long distance from each other.
  • You can make a temporary parenting plan when you first separate until you have a permanent custody plan.
  • You can modify your plan as your children get older and their needs change.
  • If you have multiple children, you can have a split custody arrangement where each parent has custody of different children.

Custody X Change is software that makes it easy to document your situation and stay organized.

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Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting time schedules.

Use the Free Download

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