Massachusetts Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements

Parenting plans outline each parent's role in raising their child.

If parents settle a case involving custody, they submit a parenting plan to the court together. This becomes the final judgment with the judge's approval.

When parents don't agree, they each submit their own plan. At trial, the judge chooses the final parenting plan, often combining aspects from each parent's proposal.

Write your plan using any format, such as the Custody X Change template. If you hire an attorney, mediator or other professional, they will help you write the plan.

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Information required in your plan

Your parenting plan must protect your child's best interests, as well as give details about physical custody and legal custody. It's best to include the case number, each parent's name, and the child's name and birthday on the document.

Physical custody

Every plan must specify a type of physical custody, which determines where your child lives and who takes care of them.

To provide further detail about physical custody you'll need a written parenting schedule in your plan. To make the schedule easier to interpret, consider adding a visual calendar.

If you have multiple children, they could each have different schedules. As your child ages, the schedule will require changes to better suit them.

Legal custody

Specify a type of legal custody to set who can make major decisions for the child.

Most commonly, these choices focus on education and non-emergency healthcare. But parents can specify other topics, like religion and extracurricular activities.

If parents will share legal custody, make it clear how this will work. Will they need to agree on every major decision? Can either one act alone?

Additional information to consider including

Parents are encouraged to include provisions in their parenting plan that can help them avoid stress and confusion later. Try to think of possible issues that could arise and specify how you'll handle them.

Here are some common parenting provisions to consider. You'll find many more in the Custody X Change app.

Right of first refusal

What happens when one parent needs someone to look after the child on short notice? Stipulate whether they must ask the other parent to watch the child before reaching out to a third party, known as the right of first refusal in the legal world.


Child support isn't covered in the parenting plan, but parents can detail how other expenses are handled. Who will pay for extracurricular activities? The child's cell phone? The more you include, the more confusion you can avoid.


Parents should not disparage each other in front of their child. Stress in your plan that conversations with the other parent must stay civil and your child should not be involved in any disagreements.


Include a clause that mandates how and when you and the other parent must notify one another of a move. Also, address how far each can move within the state without the other's consent.

Age considerations

Plans should anticipate future needs. For example, if you make a rule that only family members can take care of your infant, will you want more flexibility once the child is a toddler?

Dispute resolution

Your plan should discuss how you'll handle future custody disagreements. Will you try an alternative dispute resolution method or ask a friend to help you make decisions?

New partners

Specify how you'll introduce new partners to your child. Consider when it's appropriate for your child to meet your partner and whether the other parent should meet them first.

More guidance

For more guidance as you create your parenting plan, see these resources:

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 information required by the court.

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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Explore examples of common schedules

Explore common schedules

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