If you and your spouse are getting divorced and have minor children, it is highly recommended to create a parenting plan. A parenting plan contains several key elements that take into account both parents’ concerns regarding their children. Essentially, a parenting plan is the road-map used to develop the child custody and access agreements between both parents, going forward.
Regardless of your children’s ages, a general parenting plan should include:
* How much time each parent will get with the minor children.
The parenting plan should include visitation schedules as well as any special provisions, for example, if the non-custodial parent has access for an extended period during school breaks and how holiday times are to be divided.
* How parents will make important decisions for their minor children.
Decisions regarding education, healthcare, and religion should be included in this part of the parenting plan, as well as any instances where one parent can make decisions without having to get input from the other parent. Do both parents have to agree? Does one parent have the final decision? Is there a dispute-resolution mechanism? These are a few important elements of a plan to consider.
* The rules the children are expected to follow.
It is important to create stability for your children. Establishing standard rules ensures the children’s expectations will be the same no matter which parent they are with, like a set bed time, chores to do around the home and so on. Children tend to catch on quickly if parents have widely different approaches to parenting and will often use different rules in the households to their advantage, especially if the separation is recent.
* The form of discipline and punishments for undesired behaviours.
Again, uniform structure is essential, even when children are misbehaving. This way the children will know they cannot get away with bad behaviour regardless of which parent they are with.
* How various additional expenses are going to be paid for and by which parent?
For instance, costs for school uniforms, band instruments, sports gear, and other extracurricular activities should be detailed in this part of the parenting plan. You will also want to include any health insurance premiums, child daycare expenses, and other such things, as well as who will pay those.
As a general rule, these expenses are to be shared proportionately based on income, so a method of comparing annual incomes needs to be included. There will also need to be a provision about how such expenses are to be determined, to avoid one parent enrolling the children in various activities without the other parent’s consent.
Aside from these general topics, it can be beneficial to include age-appropriate guidelines in the parenting plan. For instance, with tweens and teens it is not uncommon for parents to provide them with a smart phone. Your parenting plan will want to outline who will pay for the phone, what they can use it for, what apps they can download, data usage caps, etc.
Keep in mind, parenting plans are only effective when both parents are willing to contribute towards their creation. In non-amicable divorce situations, a parenting plan may not be possible. Rather, the parents may have to leave issues regarding custody, access, and other such details up to the courts to decide.
However, this is not usually in the best interests of the parents and the children. It is better for the parents to set aside their personal differences and take into account what works best for their children. Otherwise, you are putting your faith in the courts to determine what is in the children’s best interests, which does not always align with what you believe is best.
For help creating a parenting plan that can be used to develop the child custody and access agreements, or for other family law matters, please feel free to contact Davies Law Firm at (613) 688-0462 today!