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Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful
Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful
Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful
Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful
Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful
Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful
Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful
Thanksgiving Football shopping pumpkin pie fall leaves turkey dinner Family pilgrims blessings cornucopia peace love thankful

One empowered woman's struggle against the world
Thursday December 14th 2017

Drafting a Parenting Plan

I have always thought parents should create a parenting plan first before they get involved with their divorce.  It prevents either parent from using the children as bargaining chips.  Many a judge would be thrilled to see a parenting plan filed with the divorce paperwork.  Contrary to belief, judges don’t really like making these life altering decisions about your children.  It will also save you real money and lots of headaches.  Having the expectations of both parents set out in the beginning will make your job of parenting easier and life a little less complicated for your child.

Drafting A Parenting Plan

A parenting plan is really just common sense.  Look at the way you were raising your children and then put it to paper.  Parenting shouldn’t change after a divorce or separation. Both parents will still have the same responsibilities except now it will be at separate times.  Although it is called visitation it really is a misnomer.  Visitation is merely the title what happens is still parenting.

A parenting plan can be as detailed as you want it to be.  There is no right or wrong length.  The best parenting plan will of course be one that both parents have had input into and agree to.  For a moment you have to set aside all the hurt, anger and disappoint over your marriage failing and focus solely on what is best for your children.  Once you can do that then it will make communicating and being reasonable with the other parent very real and very possible.

Some things you definitely want to include and address are listed below.  As I said, you can make it as detailed or simple as possible.  You can set out a parenting agreement that covers until the day your child turns 18.  Remember though with older children they tend to have a mind of their own and might not necessarily agree with your plans.

If you children are old enough to make mature decisions you can include them in the drafting of your parenting plan.  Make clear that you value their input and will consider it but that the final decision rest with the parents.

Some things to include in a parenting plan:

These are in no order of importance and not all will apply to every parenting agreement

    1.  Access to records – both parents should have equal access to all medical, dental, school, church and recreational records.  If you have any other specific records include them.
    2.  Medical care – both parents should have the authority to make emergency medical decision with notification to the other parent as soon as possible.  All other medical decisions should be discussed between the parents.  I have seen some parents go so far as to make some medical decisions outright in their agreement such as which parent is responsible for dental or routine immunizations and physicals.  For example if you both know you will allow your child braces if necessary you can include that in the agreement now and go as far as apportioning cost to save having the discussion later.
    3.  Recreational activities – you would be surprised at the fights over this one.  Both parents should be allowed to attend all recreational events and functions.  The children should be allowed to keep up with their recreational activities regardless of who has custody.  If the child was playing football before you divorced there is no reason why they can’t continue after you are divorced.  Whoever has the child when the event occurs is the parent responsible for ensuring the child attends the event (ie sports, birthday parties, social gatherings and such).
    4.  Visitation exchange – set forth who is responsible for covering the cost of visitation if there is a great distance between the parents’ homes.  Who picks them up and who drops them off.  If third party people are allowed to pick up/drop off for visitation and who the people may be.  Where the pick up and drop off will take place.  In this section you can also list how items will be dealt with.  For instance, toys that travel back and forth.  Will the child be fed when picked up/dropped off.  Ensure that child is in clean, well fitting and appropriate clothing for pick up and drop off.
    5.  Visitation schedule – here is the stickiest part of most agreements.  Keep an open mind and remember your child needs frequent and continuing contact with both parents.  There are three visitation situations:  a. parents live in the same school zone b. parents live close but outside of the school zone c. parents live a great distance apart.  Once you address which applies to you see that section.  There are some sample agreements that are real live working parenting plans in place.
  1. If you live in the same school zone then the children can spend a great deal of time with both parents.  There is no reason it has to be limited to only weekends.  Both parents are parenting so having the overnight visits during the week is not harmful.  In my case, we kept the overnights to every other weekend but added an overnight on the weeks the children don’t go on the weekend.  You can do more or less depending on what works best for your family needs.  Once you work out what will work best set out the times and days.
  2. If you live out of the school zone then the weekends are your best bet.  You could have time during the week for dinner or after school activities but overnights can become hard on the children.  Visitation doesn’t have to be overnight.  The point is to spend time with your children.
  3. If you live a great distance away then weekly visits are not always possible.  In these cases, it takes a lot of flexibility and give and take.  At the beginning of the school year the school calendar will tell you all the long weekends and holidays that can be used to ensure the children get to spend time with both parents.  When there is a huge distance technology can be your best friend.  If both the parent and the child have access to a computer online chat programs are available (skype, msn, yahoo, google).  Skype and MSN would be my top picks because they allow for video, voice and writing chats.  Regular phone calls and emails are also good tools to use.
    6.  Holidays – the visitation schedule sets forth the basic on-going visitation.  Now you need to address the holidays.  The standard court agreements split up the holidays in an odd/even system.  One parent gets a set of holidays in even years while the other parents gets the other holidays.  In odd years the holidays are switched.  For instance if you get Thanksgiving in the odd year then you won’t have it in the even year.  If you really can’t agree then stick with the standard plan its not all that bad.  Consider your needs though and those of your children.  There is no rule that says you have to spend any holidays with your children although most parents want some holidays.  For me, Halloween isn’t a big deal but my ex-husband does a Halloween party every year so my ex-husband has Halloween every year by agreement.  It meant little to me but a lot to him.  In my agreement we split Christmas break according to the school calendar.  I missed Christmas day two years in a row due to the school schedule but in the matter of equaling out the time it was ok.  For custodial parents remember you have your children the majority of the time so making the sacrifice every once in a while is worth it in the long run.  Holidays are very personal so working them out between the two of you is the best solution.  Otherwise it’s a set of holidays switched out every year.
    7.  Summer – this is a big period of time for a lot of parents.  If the other parent lives a great distance away then that parent should have a large portion of this time.  In my agreement, my ex is given 6 weeks of the summer.  The only rules are that the 6 weeks cannot be taken consecutively (he lives 90 miles away) and he has to let me know what weeks by the 1st of May each year.  If you have older children talk to them and get their input.  Summer time is a time for children to bond with friends as well so taking them away from their friends can sometimes lead to huge arguments.  Work with them if possible.
    8.  Tax Deduction – many a war were started over this one.  For working parents the tax deduction is huge.  The simplest way is every other year.  The custodial parent gets it in even years the non-custodial parent gets it in odd years.  You can fight over this all you want but most judges will even it out regardless of who gets it.  Some parents agree that the non-custodial parent gets it every year in an exchange for an increase in the monthly child support.  Some parents do their taxes and the parent who gets the largest benefit claims the child and the parents split the extra money received from the deduction.  There are many ways to apportion the tax deduction.  Easiest is still the every other year and what most judges seem to favor if the parents can’t agree.
    9.  Child Support – ok I already wrote an article about how child support and visitation don’t go together and that is still true.  However, this is a parenting plan.  Child support is a part of parenting just not a part of visitation.  Child support is ordered by the court but there are some considerations that the courts don’t always address.  Medical/dental insurance don’t always cover 100% therefore write out how the out of pocket cost will be split.  Field trips, sporting events, birthday celebrations and such cost money as well.  Some parents feel the child support should cover this some don’t.  Work out how you think it should be paid and write it down.

    Now you can include enforcement clauses about child support but they don’t have a lot of weight because the courts have specific rules pertaining to the enforcement of child support.  Consider the cost and what you feel child support should and shouldn’t cover and set forth your expectations.

    10.  Grandparents/Extended Family – You should consider whether or not to add a clause that give the grandparents some rights to visit with the children.  My children’s grandparents live out of state and don’t see the children frequently.  My agreement allows them to have guaranteed visitation time with the children when they do come to town.  They give me notice they are coming and I make sure the children are available.  The only exception is holidays.  It really is a personal choice but remember visitation is for your children not you so do what is best for them despite how you may feel about the children’s grandparents.
    11.  Removing children from the State – provide for travel out of the state.  Will the child have a passport?  Who will keep the passport (usually the custodial parent maintains all the records to have them in one place)?  Will travel out of the state or international travel be allowed and if so with or without notification?
    12.  Overnight visitors – This is for overnight visitors for the parents.  You should be careful not to use the parenting plan as a way to control the other parent however it is ok to address some issues IF they could have a detrimental effect on the children.  A clause such as this would be time limited.  Such as no overnight visitors for the parents for 6 months.  You have to remember that it is healthy for both parents to be able to move on with their own separate personal lives.
    13.  Maintain up to date information – both parents should maintain up to date information on each other.  Where you are living, how you can be contacted, who to contact in an emergency if the parent can’t be reached.  Contact information for grandparents and extended family the child will spend time with as well.  Both parents should be able to reach their child at almost any time.

As you can see there are numerous things to consider when creating a parenting plan.  There is no one size fits all scenario.  Most courts have a standard visitation agreement and standard child support agreements if you can’t agree but they are bare bones and don’t address a lot of issue that will come up.  If you sit down with the other parent and the children, if they are old enough, you can work out a parenting plan that is beneficial, time saving, money saving and gives your children the love and support they need from both parents.

If you get stuck on one issue let the judge decide that issue don’t throw out the entire agreement.  It is also good to have a clause that allows all the other clauses to remain in force if it is later deemed a clause is unnecessary or contrary to a later judge’s orders.  This way you don’t have to rewrite your entire agreement.

Good luck and happy parenting!!

Reader Feedback

2 Responses to “Drafting a Parenting Plan”

  1. […] TO THIS POST:  For some ideas on how to draft a parenting plan please check out  the article Parenting Plan.  It has been stuck in internet limbo but I have finally freed it and now it is available directly […]
  2. alain smithee says:
    I wish that my ex-wife had been this enlightened.

    It took following through with my promise to call the local sherif’s departments non-emergency number to have her arrested and charged with Interference With Custody while standing on her doorstep when trying to pick up the kids to get her to stop interfering with my visitation rights.

    Now, all that I have to do is convince Her Honor in family court that child support should be a shared responsibility, and not a requirement for the non-custodial parent to provide a specific, court ordered LIFESTYLE for their children and former spouse by paying what is actually Undifferentiad Family Support labeled as ‘child support’.

    My other problem is that my ex has now decided to have our kids call her live-in boyfriend “daddy” and to label me as a ‘potential child molester’ in open court so that she can restrict my visitation.

    I should have listened to my ex-wife’s parents when they told me that we were both good people, but a bad match, especially when my mother-in-law said not to allow my ex to get pregnant until after I finished college…

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