A parenting plan is a type of agreement that sets out the time that each parent will have with the child, as well as how decisions about the child’s life will be made. Parenting plans can be tailored to best suit the individual needs of the family and may be incorporated into a court order or stand alone as an agreement between parents.
When an application is made for a parenting order under the Divorce Act the parties can submit a parenting plan and the court must include the parenting plan in the parenting order unless it is not in the best interests of the child. If it is not in the best interests of the child the court can modify it and include it. A parenting plan does not need to be in a particular format to be submitted to the court as part of an application for a parenting order. When an application for a parenting order is made under The Children’s Law Act details about the proposed parenting arrangement can be included in the application itself. For more information about when each of these laws apply see Family Law Basics.
If parents are having difficulty communicating with one another directly, a parenting plan can include detailed information about how and when the parents will communicate so that the child can be protected from conflict between their parents.
Parents need to give some thought to the details of how each parent will spend time with the child, how decisions will be made, how information will be shared and how disputes regarding parenting issues will be resolved. In addition to determining day-to-day or week-to-week schedules, parents should also turn their attention to holidays and other special times and how those times will be spent.
Parenting plans may also include guidelines for general behaviour regarding the parents’ conduct towards one another in order to minimize conflict and focus on the best interests of the child. Parents may want to include guidelines around future moves, including things like notice and whether the parent who is moving needs the permission of the other parent. If there is a lot of conflict the parents may wish to address each point of the agreement in detail, while parents that are able to communicate well may be able to leave the exact details of the agreement to be worked out between the parties as they go.
Parenting Plan Checklist
This checklist provides an outline of things parents may want or need to deal with in their parenting plan.
Parents need to decide for themselves what they want and need to include in their parenting plan. The list that follows includes some of the more common issues that parents may want to address. Some parenting plans will need to address issues not listed here while others may not include all of the issues listed here. Every family situation is unique.
- Decision-Making – including who will make the decisions, whether there is a duty to consult or to inform the other parent and what will happen if parents who share decision-making cannot agree
- Residence – including whether the child will live mostly with one parent or share time between the parents
- Change of Residence – what happens if either parent decides to move, including notice and/or permission requirements
- Parenting Time – when each parent will see the child
- Activities – including attendance, supervision and transportation
- Holidays and Special Occasions – whether there will be changes to the regular parenting schedule
- Parenting Exchanges – who is responsible for drop-off and pick-up and where this will take place
- Communication (third parties) – how communication with schools, daycares, teams etc. will take place
- Communication (parents and child) – how and when information concerning the child and the parenting arrangement will be communicated between the parents, as well as how the parents will communicate with the child while the child is in the other parent’s care
- Conduct – rules concerning the behaviour of the parents towards each other and the child
- Disputes – how disputes concerning the parenting arrangement will be resolved (e.g. with the help of a mediator, etc.)
- Changes – how and when the parenting plan can be modified
The Agreement Maker that is part of Family Law Saskatchewan or the online Parenting Plan Tool developed by the Department of Justice Canada can both be used to create a parenting plan. Both of these tools guide people through the process by including details about all the key aspects of a parenting plan and give people numerous options within each area to tailor-make a parenting plan that works for them. In addition to being used to create an agreement about parenting arrangements, the Agreement Maker can be used to deal with other issues, such as support and division of property, at the same time.