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Parenting Plans (Custody Agreements) in British Columbia

A parenting plan details how separated parents will handle parenting apart.

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Agreeing on a plan — or not

Ideally, you agree with the other parent on your plan's contents. From there, you choose what to do:

  • Keep the plan between you. (It won't be enforceable.)
  • File it with the court. (This makes it enforceable and doesn't require a court case.)
  • Ask for a consent order that includes the parenting plan. (This makes the plan enforceable and more difficult to change. It requires opening a case.)

If you can't reach an agreement even after trying alternative dispute resolution methods, you'll need to go to court. Each parent should file a proposed plan. The judge will either order one parent's proposal or a mixture of both, depending on what is in the child's best interest.

To get a decision faster, either parent can ask the court to issue a temporary parenting plan. Many parents exit the court process once they have a temporary plan ordered and just treat it as final.

Parenting plan templates

British Columbia doesn't require parents to use a specific parenting plan template.

The Custody X Change parenting plan template offers hundreds of provisions to help you build a comprehensive, court-ready plan. It allows you to write your own provisions, as well.

There's also the Government of Canada's parenting plan tool. It has fewer provisions, so it's best for parents who get along very well. Parents with frequent conflict generally need a more detailed plan to help them avoid confrontation.

Another option is hiring a lawyer, divorce coach or mediator to draft your plan.

Terms you must include in your plan

At a minimum, your plan should cover parental responsibilities, parenting time and transitions.

Parental responsibilities (decision-making responsibilities)

Parental responsibilities give a child's guardian the right to make decisions for the child, including:

  • The school they attend
  • The religion they practice
  • Their medical treatments

If both parents are guardians, they share parental responsibilities. By default, they have equal say in all major decisions, but you may state that you'll split up decisions. For example, one parent might make all decisions about the child's education, while the other makes all decisions about extracurriculars. Be clear and specific.

Parenting time

Parenting time is when a child is in their guardian's care. Most commonly, parenting time is shared, meaning the child spends at least 40 percent of the year with each guardian.

State in your plan whether you'll follow a set schedule (which you can agree to stray from when necessary) or keep parenting time flexible. If you'll use a schedule — which is recommended to prevent confusion — include a written version or a visual calendar. The Custody X Change calendar tool can help you make both quickly.

You can have a parent's time with the child supervised to ensure the child's safety. The supervisor can be a friend, family member or professional. The arrangement is often temporary.

Transitions

Transitions (also called exchanges) are when the child goes from one parent's care to the other's.

Explain how you'll handle transitions. Who can transport the child? Will parents bring the child to the other parent's door? Will you exchange the child in a neutral place like a shop parking lot?

Optional terms

Include as many terms as you need to keep disagreements to a minimum. Consider using a parenting plan checklist to figure out which additional terms would be most useful for your situation.

Child support and other expenses

You can include child support in your plan if you agree on the amount. You can also detail how you'll split child-related expenses not covered by child support, like childcare, insurance premiums, etc.

Travel

Include terms for how parents will handle taking the child outside of the province or country. This could cover how much advance notice parents must give each other, restrictions on how far they can travel, and who will be in charge of keeping the child's passport.

Vacations

Will parents get an allotted amount of vacation time to use at any point in the year? Or maybe each parent will have specific dates each year for vacation with the child? Specify this in your plan.

Relocation

Detail how you will handle a parent's move. The law addresses how co-parents must notify each other of a move, but you can add requirements or set limits on how many kilometres parents can move. You can also decide ahead of time how you will adjust parenting time.

Contact

Granting a nonguardian contact allows them to have regular visits with the child. State which third parties are allowed visits with the child. You can even include their time in your parenting schedule.

Watching the child during the other parent's time

What will happen when one parent needs someone to look after the child for a significant amount of time? Stipulate whether they must ask the other parent to watch the child before reaching out to a babysitter. Set a minimum visit length for this requirement to kick in, e.g., four hours.

Unexpected schedule changes

You may not always be able to follow your parenting time schedule. State how you will handle unexpected changes. How much advance notice must a parent give if they will miss a visit? Will they get makeup time? How should parents communicate about late pickups and drop-offs?

Discipline

Set rules for discipline to maintain some stability between your households. For example, you can state whether punishments carry between households. If the child loses cell phone privileges in one parent's home, must the other parent also enforce the rule?

Dietary restrictions

State whether parents must help their child follow a special diet, avoid certain foods, etc.

The easiest way to make a parenting plan

When you're writing a parenting plan, it's critical you use airtight language that leaves no room for interpretation. You must also be careful not to omit any required information.

If you hire a lawyer, they'll write up the plan and ensure it meets the court's requirements.

If you write your own plan, use technology to take guesswork out of the equation. The parenting plan template in the Custody X Change online app walks you through each step.

The result is a professional document that demonstrates your competence as a parent from the first glance.

The easiest and most reliable way to make a parenting plan is with Custody X Change.

Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.

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