Creating Successful Parenting Plans
What makes a parenting plan successful? This article provides ideas, explanations, and tools to create the perfect document for your kids.
You can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own plan, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.
Your parenting plan outlines how you and the other parent will continue to care for and provide for your children. So, your plan should have information about where your children will live and spend time, how you will make decisions for your child, and what kind of rules you want to follow as you raise your children.
Here is a common parenting plan template:
- A parenting time schedule that shows when your child is with each parent
- Information about how you will provide important care for your children
- Rules or provisions that provide guidelines for how you and the other parent will work together to raise the children
- Information about expenses and child support
- Any extra information that you feel will help your custody situation
The parenting time schedule
First, you need to decide where your child will live. Will your child spend significant time living with both parents? Or will your child live primarily with one parent and visit the other parent? Once you know where your child will live, you can make your schedule.
Your parenting time schedule should include:
- The residential schedule: where the child spends weekdays and weekends.
- A holiday schedule: where the child spends holidays and other special days.
- Vacation time: where the child spends school breaks or other vacation days and time when the parents can take the children on vacation.
To make your schedule, you should look at the work schedules of both parents, the school holidays and breaks, and all of the important dates in the year. Then you can sit down with a calendar and divide up the time between the parents by hand or you can use Custody X Change to create your schedule.
Creating your schedule with Custody X Change allows you to:
- Explore different options for your schedule until you find the right one for your child
- Maximize the parenting time you have with your child
- Easily make changes to your schedule as circumstances change
- Sync your custody schedule with your Blackberry, iPhone, Palm/PDA, Outlook, Google Calendar, Yahoo Calendar, Windows Live, etc
- Print multiple copies of your schedule so you and the other parent always know what's going on
Providing care for your child
Your plan must first have information about legal custody. Legal custody is the authority that parents have to make decisions for their children (this includes decisions about education, medical care, religion, etc). You and the other parent need to decide how you will share or split the responsibility to make decisions.
Some common options for dividing legal custody are:
- A joint legal custody arrangement where both parents have a say in every major decision.
- A joint legal custody arrangement where each parent makes decisions for the child when the child is with that parent.
- A joint legal custody arrangement where each parent has authority over certain areas.
- A sole legal custody arrangement where one parent has full responsibility to make all decisions.
Your plan should also address how you will provide other types of care for your children. You should think about your child's needs (including any special needs) and figure out how you and the other parent will meet those needs.
Some common topics to include in a parenting plan are:
- Medical and dental care for your child, including who will provide insurance
- The child's education and schooling plans
- How the parents will communicate with each other about the child
- How the parents will resolve disputes and disagreements
- How the parents will make changes to the plan
As you make your plan in Custody X Change, you can include information about legal custody and other provisions about providing care.
Extra rules and guidelines
Your plan can have extra rules or guidelines that specify how you will raise your child and that help your plan work better.
Some examples of parenting provisions and extra guidelines are:
- Information about where exchanges take place and the transportation for exchanges
- A rule that parents won't say negative things about the other parent in front of the child
- Information about how you will choose the extra-curricular activities for your child
- Requirements about obtaining or using your child's passport
- The requirement that the child always wear a seat belt in the car
- The right of first refusal, which means that if a parent isn't available for scheduled parenting time the other parent is offered the time first (instead of outside childcare)
Including rules and provisions in your plan can help you avoid conflict and trouble later on. As you think about provisions for your plan, consider areas where you and the other parent might have conflict. Then put a rule or procedure in your plan to handle the situation.
You can choose provisions from a list in Custody X Change to add to your plan, and you can also create your own provisions and include them too.
Expenses and child support
Both parents are financially responsible for your child, and your plan needs to show how this will happen. It's a good idea to come up with a plan for how you will handle and divide expenses along with figuring out the child support (and you can factor in child support money when deciding expenses).
To figure out how to handle and divide expenses:
- Start keeping a record of expenses that come up for your child.
- Make a list of recurring expenses for your child.
- Come up with a system for how you and the other parent will handle recurring expenses (like school registration or monthly payments for extra activities).
- Come up with a system for handling unexpected expenses (like emergency medical care).
- Come up with a system for how you and the other parent will track expenses while caring for the children.
- Decide how you will handle every day expenses for the children (like how will you provide clothing and food for the children).
Your state child support calculation determines your child support. Usually, child support is based on the parenting timeshare percentage and income of the parents. You can use a visitation timeshare calculator to determine the timeshare percentage of each parent. Generally speaking, if one parent has more time with the children they receive child support from the other parent.
Most states have separate and specific forms to fill out for child support. You should fill out these forms and file them with the court, and you should include copies of them in your plan.
Custody X Change has a visitation timeshare calculator you can use to determine your parenting or overnight timeshare percentage. This helps you put an accurate number into the child support calculation.
Most of the time, any additional information is covered in the extra parenting provisions, but you may have circumstances that warrant something extra in the parenting plan. Feel free to customize your plan so it fits your child.
If you and the other parent agree on your plan, you can submit your plan together to the court. In these cases, the court will usually just approve the plan.
If you and the other parent do not agree on your plan, you will need to go before a judge. Both parents will show the judge a proposed plan, and the judge will decide what plan is in the best interest of the child. The judge can also order both parents to attend mediation or come up with new plans.
The following documents from Custody X Change can help you when you file or when you present your plan to the judge:
- a calendar of the custody schedule
- a written report of the schedule
- your plan written in legal terms
- a detailed timeshare report
In many places you can file the printed documents from Custody X Change with the court. If your state requires specific forms, you can write the information from the software onto the required form. The software also lets you export all of your documents to Word, PDF, and Excel so you can make changes as you need to.
Once your agreement is filed and the judge approves it, it becomes an official court order. This means that you and the other parent are legally obligated to follow the plan. If you don't file your plan with the court, the court can't help you if the plan is violated.
Your plan is effective if it meets the needs of your child and allows you and the other parent to raise your child with minimum contention.
To know how well your plan is working, you can keep track of your actual parenting time and keep a custody journal where you record information. You can compare your actual parenting time with the scheduled time to know how well the schedule is being followed (and to know if you need to change the amount of child support). You can use your custody journal to share information with the other parent, or to keep for your personal records.
Custody X Change has an actual-time tracking and journaling feature that lets you keep track of actual parenting time and write notes about visits. This can help you know if your plan is effective.
As you consider what to put in your parenting plan, you should always remember that everything in the plan should be made in the best interest of your child. After all, your child is the reason you are making the plan. If you think about the needs and interests of your child, your plan will be built on a successful foundation.
As your child grows older, you may find that you need to adjust your plan. You can include a provision in your parenting plan about making changes to the plan as your child grows older. Or, you can revise your plan periodically with the other parent to make sure it is still working for your situation.
If you track your plan and decide that you need to make changes to it, you should first approach the other parent. When both parents agree on the changes to the plan, you can simply file a new plan with the court.
If the other parent disagrees on the changes, you will need to return to court. You will propose the changes to the judge, and the judge will decide if they are in the best interest of the child.