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  • Writer's picturePhoebe Baker

How to create a parenting plan

Updated: May 12, 2021

What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan is a plan that parents create to outline and the logistics for sharing parenting responsibilities after separation or divorce.

All over the world, parenting plans are being used by families as a way to formalise their parenting-related rights and responsibilities. Parenting plans provide an essential framework that can be used by both parties.

What are some other names given to a parenting plan?

Depending on where in the world you are based, you might find that a parenting plan could be referred to as something else. In many places, a parenting plan is also referred to as a custody plan or a parenting agreement. In the USA, your parenting plan may simply be outlined as a part of your divorce decree.

When is the right time to write a parenting plan?

Typically, parents will start to outline a parenting plan is as soon as you decide to separate. When parents need an arrangement regarding access to or contact with children, a parenting plan will help mitigate stress and/or disagreements.

How do you get started in writing out a parenting plan?

Ideally, a parenting plan needs to be a joint effort.

In most relationships, there will usually be one party who is more organised than the other. Add the tension and potential hurt feelings of separation or divorce to this imbalance, and it can be hard to work as a team to create the parenting plan you need.

In terms of preparation, get everything ready and schedule a parenting plan meeting with your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Prepare to spend at least an hour discussing the details, and leave other divorce topics out of the discussion. If they start to veer into another topic, come back to the parenting plan at hand and move forward. Do not react to distractions.

As you write out your parenting plan, you should be contributing as equal partners. Ask your ex-spouse what he or she feels about your parenting ideas, and listen to their feedback. It may be hard, but it’s the start of the next phase in your partnership together as co-parents.

Because this is a significant process, it is important that each party gives this the time and attention it deserves. Offer your child or children a regular routine that can feel secure with and have confidence in by giving your parenting plan your full attention.

A solid parenting plan helps everyone to better adjust to life after divorce — both parents and children alike.

Is a parenting plan legally binding?

A parental plan created during separation is not a legally binding document in Australia — although in other countries such as the USA, they can hold significant weight during divorce proceedings down the road. While parenting plans are often recognised in family court situations and can be presented as evidence, they are not enforceable under law.

How do you write a parenting plan?

A parenting plan is tailored to the needs of the individual family and their unique situation — there’s no one way to do it “right.” While there are lots of examples of parenting plans online, here is a baseline guide you wish to use when outlining our parenting plan for the first time.

What types of things should you included in a parenting plan?

While there will always be variations to parenting plans, the core structure of a parenting plan will involve the following aspects:

The day-to-day living arrangements for the childrenMatters pertaining to the education of the childAny matters or processes to follow that relate to healthcare for the childA schedule of contact for the non-habitual parent

Some notes on holiday and event planning:

Whether a birthday, Christmas, family occasion or other holiday — any event which may interfere with the normal parenting schedule will need to be considered and planned for in advance.

Where Father’s Day might fall on a day the child is due to spend with the mother, or Mother’s Day falls on one of the days that the father has the child — these should be written down, to avoid conflict and misunderstandings in the future. When in doubt, write it down.

Some things to keep in mind with your parenting schedule:

Perhaps one of the most pressing matters of any parenting plan is the schedule for care.

A parenting schedule outlines how you and your ex-partner will divide up the day-to-day physical care of  your child or children. The school or care schedule can impact upon the schedule, and this is something that needs due care and consideration. In almost all circumstances, unless the child is at risk, then parents need to both allow for the other to spend ample time with their children. It is important to nurture both the maternal and the paternal relations, especially following a separation or divorce.

With technology, it is now easier than ever before to create a shared calendar online that you can both get easy access to. This is a great help when you both lead busy lives, and the schedule isn’t a standard set of regular days or times. They are also great for helping to visualize your parenting plan, and it also ensures that both parties know exactly where they stand.

Important things to remember:

As parents with equal rights for the big decisions in your child’s life, the manner in which you are able to take and make the bigger decisions is key. Most courts regardless of the country will usually prefer for both parties to remain involved in the important decisions that have an impact on their child or children. It could matter relating to schooling, health, religion, discipline, and more.

While you may have just gone through a breakdown in your relationship, the result of which was your separation or divorce; and it might seem challenging to think you will be in a place where you would be able to agree and discuss important matters amicably, you might find that things get better over time.

We offer a range of divorce courses that can help you understand the different ways to talk with your children about Divorce, along with helping to get you the support needed through this challenging time.

As a Divorce Support Service, we offer practical advice to those going through separation or divorce; and we have helped many parents to outline and write a parenting plan template to use when sitting down to work on a custody schedule with their ex-partners.

Some notes on expenses:

Without a doubt, there will be times when child-related expenses come up that are not covered in the regular maintenance planning. With certain expenses, these could be considered to a direct 50/50 split. For some parents, it can be easier when a register of all expenses is kept, and this can also be used to track money that is spent, itemise the costs, and to also facilitate requests for other finances relating to the child or children.

Other considerations:

While it will be virtually impossible to plan for every eventuality in advance, there are other matters that tend to crop of over time which can serve to cause frustration or may leave one party feeling excluded. While some of these points might seem insignificant, the simple act of writing them into your parenting plan as considerations can help to alleviate any future ill feeling.

Dietary IssuesReligious MattersVisitation with Extended FamilyCurfew TimesExtracurricular ActivitiesTalking about the Other Parent in their absenceBabysittingScreen TimeSchool ReportsNew Partners or FriendsDiscipline

As we’ve already highlighted, no two parenting plans are the same. However, if you ensure that you try to incorporate as many of these points into your first discussion, this can help both parties feel included in the process, and it can also help to avoid any future potential fallouts or disagreements.

If you want to get some guidance as to what to include in a parenting plan, you can schedule a one-on-one session with a Divorce Coach here today.

As a final note in this article, and something which all parents need to be aware of are the pick-up and drop-off arrangements. Again, this is something that is going to personal to your own set of circumstances; it is also something that can only really be determined by the judgment of how amicable you are both with one another.

The last thing your children need to see as their parents feuding when the handovers are taking place. Despite your own feelings towards each other, you need to make sure that you are both in the best frame of mind when you meet. If there are issues that need to be discussed, then this should always be kept away from the child’s time with the other party. Waiting until you collect or drop-off your child to see the other parent in order to discuss pressing matters is not ideal, and it will likely only end-up going one way.

It will impact upon the mood of your children, and it will almost certainly serve to disrupt one if not both parents. Keep your handovers positive, stick to what you agree in your parenting plan, and discuss issues that could get heated away from the eyes and ears of your children.

For extra support, visit our courses


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