A Parenting Plan is part of a separation agreement. It is required by the district court along with divorce paperwork when parents divorce or separate. Depending upon the jurisdiction, separated parents may also enter into a Parenting Plan without ever going to Court.

A Parenting Plan sets out the schedule and protocols for the living arrangements of children with separated parents. It allows parents to avoid future conflicts arising from a lack of guidelines in dealing with responsibilities relating to the children. Without specific agreements around these responsibilities disputes can arise and litigation may be needed to resolve these issues. When parents do not comply with this law the court is then forced to make decisions about the children’s lives and come up with a Parenting Plan of their own. Parents can consider including binding arbitration where an arbitrator will make the same decisions that a judge would to avoid the courts in the future.

A Parenting Plan may address some or all of the following topics:

  • Parenting Time (physical custody)
  • Decision Making (legal custody)
  • Transportation and Exchanges
  • Annual Vacations and School Breaks
  • Child Support
  • A Dispute Resolution Process
  • Schools Attended and Access to Records
  • Physical and Mental Health Care
  • Contact Information, Relocation and Foreign Travel
  • Social Activities and School functions
  • Overnights and Visitation
  • Communications and Mutual Decision-Making
  • Mediation and Arbitration
  • Medical Insurance and Related Expenses
  • Contact with Relatives and Significant Others
  • Taxes and Wills

Financial issues such as child support, health insurance, tax issues, and survivor benefits differ by jurisdiction. Parents often determine these issues in a different process than determining the schedule for their children.

In some jurisdictions, communities have a common parenting schedule that integrates with daycare, school bus service, sports and activities. These are organized by the Fair Parenting Project.

If the parenting plan is agreed by the parties before the court hearing, it is called “stipulated” or ‘on consent’. A judge can approve such a stipulated parenting plan without a court hearing. Judges normally encourage parties to reach an agreement, rather than to go to hearing.

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