What Is a Parenting Plan?

What Is a Parenting Plan?With many divorcing couples, issues of child custody and visitation are often the most thorny and contentious. A detailed parenting plan, agreed upon by the parents and endorsed by the courts, can help parents meet their child’s needs, set forth each parent’s responsibilities, and allow flexibility. Well thought-out parenting plans avoid the need to go to court any time there is a disagreement or minor change in circumstances.

Raising children together is difficult enough. Raising them in separate homes, especially when the parents may have limited contact with each other, presents even more challenges. Without a set parenting plan for child custody, both the child and the parents can be living in constant stress and anxiety, which is extremely unhealthy. A consistent schedule gives peace of mind and reduces uncertainty.

Parenting plans should contain all the details about where the child will live (as well as other important information and decisions) and then be filed along with a divorce decree or consent order, so it will be enforceable by the courts.

Creating your parenting plan—a checklist

Parenting plans contain basic information like custody, visitation, and vacation. But there are many details that crop up in day-to-day life, and you should be prepared for those too. Keep these things in mind when drafting a parenting agreement with your attorney:

  • Living arrangements. Will there be a primary home, or will the child be going back and forth? Who will do drop-offs and pick-ups? At what time? What if school is out or the child is sick? How much will this change affect the child? If one parent moves, how much notice is fair for you to reach a new agreement? (There are laws governing the amount of time you have to give notice, but if you and your spouse plan this out ahead of time, it will take considerably less effort – and less stress – to deal with later.)
  • Vacations, holidays, or other celebrations. Keep in mind school breaks and birthdays. Will the child spend certain days each year with a particular parent, like Mother’s Day? Will the parents alternate holidays, like Thanksgiving or Christmas, or will the child spend a certain holiday with one parent every year?
  • Legal custody. Legal custody means decisions about your child’s health, religious, and educational decisions. How will parents notify each other in emergency situations? Who will take the child to the doctor? Who has the child on their health insurance? Who pays for extra-curricular activities like sports or dance?
  • Resolving problems. If the parents disagree on an issue, how will they solve it? Will they go to therapy, mediation, or litigation? What communication will you use? Phone, text, email, face-to-face? How will you make changes to the agreement—in writing or via court modification?

At McCabe Russell, PA, we help families move forward after divorce. Our family law attorneys in Rockville can be trusted to help protect your best interests and those of your children. To speak with an experienced lawyer serving Montgomery County clients today, please call 443-812-1435 or fill out our contact form. We also maintain offices in Columbia, Bethesda and Fulton.