New York Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements
A parenting plan (sometimes called a custody agreement) outlines how divorced or separated parents will share the rights and responsibilities of raising their child.
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, though this is uncommon.
Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.
Information required in your plan
New York requires a notarized 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 must 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.
Though the court may let you keep parenting time flexible if you have an amicable relationship, making a schedule is highly advised. (See below for details.) You'll be able to stray from it when you both agree to.
If you choose joint legal custody, specify how you'll share or divide decision-making duties. Will you make all major decisions together? Or maybe, for example, Parent 1 will make medical decisions alone?
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 you'll handle them.
You can use the Custody X Change parenting plan template to walk you through possible situations. Below are key elements New York lawyers and mediators advise clients to include in a plan.
Parenting time schedule
Include a custody and visitation schedule in your plan to explain exactly 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 schedule. Does the weekend begin immediately after school on a Friday? What length of time constitutes a dinner visit?
Periodic schedule review
Your child's needs will change over time. Consider 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 pick the child up (rather than have the other parent drop the child off). The parent who's already with the child can often be distracted or want more time, so custody exchanges are more likely to happen punctually this way. (This doesn't apply to parents who will meet at neutral locations or use a third party to exchange their child.)
Plans should always state how long a parent must wait after contacting the other before they 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 child up?
Third-party decision maker
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 to have final say when you disagree.
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
Include a clause that mandates you and the other parent stay within a certain living distance of one another, or specify a time frame for when you and the other parent must notify one another of a move.
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?
Specify how you'll both introduce your new romantic partners to the child. How soon after a relationship begins should you introduce your partner? Should the other parent meet them first? Are you comfortable with the child calling the partner Mom or Dad?
The amount of respect you give one another impacts your child. Include a provision requiring respectful communication to ensure that both parents stick to this standard.
You're free to leave child support up to the court.
However, if you agree on an amount, state it, which parent will pay and when. Then you must also include the following language:
The parties have reviewed the Child Support Standards Act for calculating child support. The amount of child support required to be paid would be $_____ per year. This amount should be the correct amount unless we agree to deviate from the amount in the Act. If we agree to deviate from this amount, our reasons are stated below.
If your agreed amount is different than what the court recommends, list your reasons. Be clear and specific so that the court is likelier to approve your amount.
The court generally requires one parent to pay at least $25 a month.
In New York, parents usually split large expenses (e.g., medical bills, school tuition, day care) according to their incomes. Whether you like this setup or want a different one, be sure to specify in your plan.
Child support is designed to even out any discrepancy in smaller, daily costs that parents cover while the child is in their care.
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.
Your parenting plan should be unique to your family and reflect any special circumstances.
Consider including specialized provisions in your plan, such as:
- Provisions for parents who live far apart
- Provisions for military parents
- Provisions for high-conflict parents
Factors the court considers
The judge will turn a plan into a court order if it ensures the health, safety and welfare of your child. They'll 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 they're mature enough)
- Your child's ties to school, home and community
- Each parent's ability to care for the child
- Any evidence of drug or alcohol abuse by a parent
- Any evidence of abuse by a parent against the other parent, a partner or a child
For more guidance as you create your parenting plan, see these resources:
- Age guidelines for parenting plans and schedules
- Temporary parenting plans and schedules
- Modifying your parenting plan and schedule
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.