When a couple decides to divorce or separate and they have children in common, they may need a parenting plan. A parenting plan is a legal document that outlines their rights and responsibilities related to child custody and visitation.
A parenting plan may either be a written agreement between the parents or a court order. It is created to ensure that both parents understand their role in raising their children and who has decision-making authority. It can also include how to manage their communication with each other and dispute resolution procedures.
There are several key items that should be included in the parenting plan. A residential schedule outlines when the child will be with each parent. This includes visitation, holidays, vacations and special occasions, as well as the regular weekly schedule and school breaks.
Decision-making authority is also important to include in the plan. It should address which parent will make major decisions about the child’s education, healthcare and religion. Some parents may decide that it’s best for them to make decisions jointly. Otherwise, the plan can designate one parent to have final authority.
The parents can also include the process for how they will resolve disagreements that arise. They may choose mediation or arbitration, which are alternative dispute resolution options, to try to resolve conflicts before going to court.
These are only some examples of what should be included. Parents may also want to address transportation, relocation, parental conduct, visits with extended family members and who will respond in an emergency. The parenting plan should keep the best interests of the children in mind.