What Is a Parenting Plan?

in Parenting FAQs

A parenting plan is a comprehensive child custody plan that includes details about the parents’ time-sharing and decision-making procedures regarding the child in cases of separation or divorce. It is a legal document filed with the court that must be agreed upon and signed by both parents and the judge. The aim of a parenting plan is to form an effective co-parenting plan to provide for the child’s future.

A parenting plan describes how the parents will handle decisions concerning the child, what communication methods the parents will use, how much time each parent gets to spend with the child, and how the parents will address other parenting issues.

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A Comprehensive Parenting Plan

A comprehensive parenting plan encompasses all aspects of the child’s life—from simple, everyday concerns to major issues, such as religious beliefs, health care, education, discipline, and lifestyle expectations.

If the parents’ relationship is relatively amicable, then the parenting plan can be flexible, but if the parents’ relationship is tense, then it is best to describe each thing in detail, including ways to resolve any disputes.

The local governments of many states and countries provide guidelines for writing a parenting plan. Depending on the applicable laws, the government’s guidelines may describe the essential points for drafting a parenting plan. They may also include other issues depending on individual needs.

The topics usually included in a typical parenting plan include:

  • Physical Custody
    • With which parent will the child live? Will the parents share custody, or will the child live primarily with one parent?
    • How much time will the child spend with each parent?
    • How will transport between the two homes be managed?
    • How will the child’s belongings be managed?
    • How will changes in the parenting schedule be handled?
  • Legal Custody
    • Which parent gets to make decisions for the child?
    • Who will make decisions about the child’s health care and have access to the child’s health records?
    • Who will make decisions about the child’s education and have access to the child’s educational records?
    • Who has the authority to travel with the child?
  • Financial Issues
    • Who will provide for the child’s day-to-day care?
    • Who will pay for the child’s educational expenses?
    • Who will pay for the child’s health care?
    • Who will pay for unforeseen expenditures?
  • Communication
    • How will the parents communicate about the child?

Why Are Parenting Plans Necessary?

A good parenting plan helps navigate the turbulence of post-divorce life.  A properly drafted parenting plan considers different scenarios that parents may encounter and helps them prepare for them in advance.

As much as it affects the parents, a divorce has more negative effects on their children. Studies show that children of divorced parents obtain less education, struggle with substance abuse, have a higher risk of mortality, and are more likely to have their own marriages end in divorce.

According to the findings of one research study, “Men who had experienced parental divorce were more likely to have their own marriages end in divorce, obtained less education, and engaged in fewer service activities. Women who had experienced parental divorce smoked more and were more likely themselves to divorce, both of which predicted higher mortality risk.”

But studies also show that the outcomes of divorce are not the same for all children, and the negative effects are not inevitable. However, there are many things that can be done to improve the children’s resilience and reduce the risks.

One entry in the Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development states, “Establishing new family rituals and routines is another way to strengthen the bonds between parents and children.”

The most important factors that affect a child’s well-being after the parents’ divorce are the quality of the parenting provided, the nature of the parent-child relationship, the parents’ own well-being, and the parents’ ability to function and resolve their conflicts effectively.

A strong parenting plan helps resolve parental conflicts and allows the parents to co-parent effectively. The goal is to affect children’s lives powerfully and positively as they undergo the difficult changes associated with separation and divorce.

References

Hello! I am Roselia Shi, mom to a feisty one-and a-half-year-old girl named Tara. We live in Newport, Arkansas. I enjoy solving everyday health and parenting problems. I have a university degree in clinical pharmacy and pharmacology. I started exploring science-based parenting soon after Tara was born. Parenting Science is a small attempt to share some useful information and insights about responsive parenting.

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