New York Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements

A parenting plan (sometimes called a custody agreement) outlines how parents will share the rights and responsibilities of raising their children.

You might use one to negotiate with the other parent, to present your requests to a judge or mediator, or to file a settlement.

Many uniform aspects of making a parenting plan are the same regardless of your state. Below are guidelines specific to New York.

Keep in mind that each child in a family could require a different plan.

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

Make My New York Plan Now

Information required in your plan

New York requires a parenting plan if you settle your case with the other parent. Although a plan is not required if you choose to go to trial, presenting one can show your commitment and present your desired arrangement in a positive light.

In either situation, your parenting plan should address who will have physical and legal custody of the child.

Physical custody determines where the child lives and who acts as their primary caretaker. You should specify whether one parent will have sole physical custody or the two parents will share joint physical custody. You can include a visitation schedule in written and visual form to show when the child will be with each parent.

Legal custody is the authority to make decisions for and about your child. Your plan must state whether one parent will have sole legal custody or the two parents will share joint legal custody. For joint legal custody, you should specify how the parents will share or divide decision-making duties (more below).

Suggested information to include

You aren't required to have information beyond physical and legal custody in your plan, but courts encourage parents to include as much detail as possible.

To avoid later stress and confusion, try to think of all potential disagreements ahead of time, then stipulate in your plan exactly how they'll be handled.

You can use the Custody X Change parenting plan template to walk you through possible situations. Below are some key elements New York lawyers and mediators advise clients to include in their plans.

Parenting time

Include a custody and visitation schedule within your plan to explain how parents will share time with the child.

To complement that schedule, make sure your plan lays out ways to deal with unexpected scheduling changes. For example, what happens if a parent is suddenly unable to pick up the child?

You should also include terminology definitions to support your visitation schedule. Does the weekend begin immediately after school on a Friday? What length of time constitutes a dinner visit?

Periodic schedule review

Your children's needs will change as they get older. Consider including a provision that allows for changes to the visitation schedule every few years without going to court.


It's a good idea to specify that the receiving parent will be responsible for picking up the kids. The parent who's already with the children can often be distracted or want more time, so custody exchanges are more likely to happen punctually when the receiving parent does the transporting. (This does not apply to parenting plans in which parents meet at neutral locations or use a third party to exchange their children.)

Response time

Plans should always state how long a parent must wait after contacting the other before he or she can act alone. For example: If two parents agreed to make decisions about extracurricular activities together, but one hasn't replied to an email about a new karate class, how long before the other parent can sign the kids up on his or her own?


If you have joint legal custody, you can specify who will make decisions regarding specific aspects of your child's life. For example, Parent 1 may make medical decisions, while Parent 2 is in charge of educational decisions.

Third-party influence

Name someone to be the "tie-breaker" when you're at a standstill with the other parent. You can hire a mental health professional like a parenting coordinator or ask a mutual friend or family member to act as the voice of reason when you disagree.

Information sharing

Specify how you'll share important information with one another such as:

  • Your child's grades, test scores and other educational records
  • Medical records
  • Emergency contacts
  • Travel itineraries when taking the child on vacation (flights, hotel, etc.)

Relocation clause

Include a clause that mandates you and the other parent stay within a certain living distance of one another, or specify a timeframe for when you and the other parent must notify one another of a move.

Parent-child communication

Decide when and how to communicate with the child when they're with the other parent. What time is too late to call on a school night? Should you provide updates throughout the day? Is video calling allowed?

New partners

Specify how you'll introduce new partners to your children. Should the other parent meet your partner before the children? How soon after relationships begin should you introduce your partner to the children? Are you comfortable with the kids addressing the partner as "Mom" or "Dad"?

Mutual respect

The amount of respect you give one another impacts your children. Include a provision requiring respectful communication to ensure both parents are held to a standard that fosters healthy parent-child relationships.


In New York, parents with similar incomes usually split large expenses evenly: medical bills, school tuition, day care, etc. Each parent covers smaller, daily costs when the child is in their care, and child support payments serve to even out these expenses. Whether you like this setup or want a different one, be sure to specify in your plan.

Health insurance

Will you have the child on one parent's health plan or on both parents' plans? Both arrangements are common, so decide which works for you. Often, the parent who has health insurance through their employer is responsible for the child's insurance. If the parent must pay for the insurance, it qualifies as a child support deduction.

Special circumstances

Your parenting plan should be unique to your family and reflect any special circumstances. You can customize it to suit any situation.

Consider including specialized provisions in your plan such as:

Factors the court will consider

The judge will turn a plan into a court order if it ensures the health, safety, and welfare of your child. He or she will look at the following to decide if your plan is in the child's best interest:

  • Your child's age
  • Your child's health
  • Your child's relationship with each parent
  • Your child's preference (if he or she is mature enough)
  • Your child's ties to school, home, and community
  • Each parent's ability to care for the child
  • Any evidence or history of drug or alcohol abuse by a parent
  • Any history of abuse by a parent against the other parent, a partner or a child

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 or mediator, he or she will write up the plan and ensure it meets the court's requirements.

If you're writing your own plan, use technology to take the guesswork out of the equation. The Custody X Change app will walk you through each step of creating a comprehensive parenting plan.

The result will be 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.

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

Make My New York Plan Now

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

Make My Plan

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

Make My New York Plan Now

No thanks, I don't need a parenting plan