There are many details that must go into a well-written parenting plan.
It is important to understand that even if you cover all the topics in your plan, we learned in the second week of this course that the way aspects of the parenting plan are worded can create or minimize conflict between parents. Therefore, it is important to be very specific when writing these different sections into a plan.
The basic residential schedule is an essential component of the plan, which specifies where the child or children will live and when. The schedule should state specifically which regular days of the week the child will be with each parent, and if one parent has primary custody, which days and times the other parent exercises their parenting time. There should also be geographical considerations, such as how far away the parents should live from each other, and what should occur if one wants to move.
Holiday time schedules are another important part of the plan that need to be clearly spelled out. These schedules should also account for days that the children are not in school for non-holiday reasons, such as parent-teacher conference days. Some plans also rotate visits for the child’s birthday between parents, so the time at which such visits start and end should be clear. Special events such as weddings and family reunions should also be addressed, and directions on how the parents should make arrangements with the other parent to accommodate such changes to the schedule.
Child care, particularly related to the care for young children, should also be included. Some parents agree to a “right of first refusal” regarding their children if the other parent is unable to care for the child, such as in cases when they have to work. In some families, these types of agreements cause a considerable amount of conflict when a parent believes the other doesn’t extend them the right of first refusal, and so it is often better to just have the parents be independently responsible for care during their respective parenting time.
How communication between parents and children should occur when in the care of the other parent should also be clear. Some parenting plans are not clear about the expected frequency and methods of communication, which can be abused by one or both parents, such as calling and texting the child too often and interfering with the other parent’s quality time. The plan should also provide detail about how the child’s belongings are treated…do they have different sets of clothes at both homes? Two different phones? What can travel back and forth with the child?
Responsibility for transportation to and from the parent’s homes should also be clear. Typically such transportation is split, with one parent dropping off while the other picks up, but this can vary based on the circumstances of the family. Travel out of the country often needs the approval of the other parent, as does the coordination to obtain a passport and visa for travel. The parenting plan should specify how this coordination and communication about travel should occur, and what recourse the parents have if the other parent does not cooperate.
The parenting plan should also contain information about decision-making authority such as joint or individual), and how the parties should resolve conflicts. For example, who selects and makes the doctor appointments? When are the appointments to be scheduled? How are emergencies to be handled? How are the children cared for when they are ill? How are the parents to obtain medical and educational records for the children? Who will attend parent-teacher conferences?
There can also be a lot of other topics included in the parenting plan, such as guidelines for how each parent will introduce their child to new romantic partners, agreements about sleeping arrangements like children must have their own beds when at each parents home, preferred discipline methods, parent to parent communication guidelines, cell phone access, dietary requirements, and expectations about participation in school/extracurricular activities. The plan should be flexible to the changing needs to the child, while at the same time have very specific guidelines.
Without sharing your own personal details, comment on what other kinds of details do you think would be useful for parents to address in their parenting plans? Is there a risk that some details are too intrusive of the other parent’s time? How can adherence to the plan be monitored for some of the details described above, such as sleeping arrangements?
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