Parenting plans typically set out the time that each parent will have with the child as well as how decisions about the child’s life will be made. They 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.
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 they 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.
Some parenting plans involve one parent having custody, including having the child live with that parent and that parent having the right to make all major decisions in the child’s life, with the other parent having access. Others may indicate that the parents will have joint custody, with both parents being responsible for the major decisions in the child’s life, but that the child will live primarily with one of them. Still others may involve a situation where the parents will have joint custody and the child will live with each of them on an alternating basis for equal, or close to equal, periods of time. There are of course other variations that reflect the unique situations of other families.
This checklist provides an outline of things parents may want or need to deal with in their parenting plan.
Sample Parenting Plans
The sample parenting plans that follow are intended to provide examples of the type of matters that are typically included and how they can be addressed. They are not intended to be a template for actual agreements as those must be tailored to suit individual situations.
Parents may also want to look at the online Parenting Plan Tool developed by the Department of Justice. It includes sample clauses for a number of different aspects of a parenting plan including day-to-day decision-making; parenting time generally and, specifically, in relation to birthdays, holidays and vacations; details about information-sharing; travel; and moving. The Parenting Plan Tool also includes sample clauses regarding how disputes will be handled and how the parenting plan can be reviewed and revised from time to time.