At its essence, it is a written agreement that is created and agreed to by the parents (and approved by the court) which outlines the relationship between the parents regarding the child or children. It includes details on how the children will be cared for and supported, custody information, and much more.
Because this document focuses on the care for the child or children, it tends to be one of the more contentious issues negotiated by the parties. If you are in the process of becoming separated or divorced and you want to ensure your parenting plan is fair for you and your spouse and crafted in the best interest for your child or children, then here is what you should include in your plan.
What Needs to Be Included in a Parenting Plan?
Parenting plans are customized to the needs of the child or children, so not every agreement is the same. That said, there are several key considerations that should be included in every agreement, and these include:
Legal and Physical Custody – The parenting plan needs to state which parent is being granted legal custody and which has physical custody. While one parent will be granted legal custody, which gives them the authority to make fundamental decisions on behalf of the child, physical custody can be either granted to one parent or shared between the two, as in joint legal custody. Regardless of the legal and physical custody arrangement, it must be clearly outlined in the agreement.
Parenting Time – The plan must outline in specific detail how the child or children will be transferred between the parents for parenting time. This should include a parenting schedule, transportation details, and how the parents will communicate with each other. The details pertaining to parenting time needs to be specific in the agreement, but parents may wish to include a provision providing for flexibility in the event a temporary change needs to occur.
Holiday Parenting Time – The holidays can be an especially stressful topic for parents to negotiate, so this needs to be included in your plan to help reduce the risk of future problems. The plan should feature a list annual holidays and outline the schedule for whom your child or children will spend that holiday with. Usually, the child or children will rotate holidays and parents every year for fairness purposes unless otherwise detailed. This part of the plan should also indicate when the holiday parenting time starts and stops.
Vacation Parenting Time – Vacation parenting time needs to be addressed much like holiday parenting time. The average plan usually provides for each parent to have two weeks (14 days) of vacation parenting annually, but your plan can be customized to you and your spouse’s schedules.
Access to Medical and School Records – The names of both parents should appear on all medical and school records for your child, but while this should be a given, it is not always the case, so it needs to be included in your plan. This is to ensure that each parent will be able to access all their child’s records without assistance or permission from the other parent.
School Attendance Guarantee – Your parenting plan should include a provision that guarantees that both parents will ensure their school-age child or children attend school regularly and continuously.
Safety Provisions – Ensuring your child or children are safe at all times is one of your most important duties as a parent. So, every plan needs to include specific provisions addressing actions to be taken if child abuse or neglect, intimate partner abuse, parental conflict, or criminal activity affecting the child is discovered.
Relocation of a Parent – If you or your ex-spouse relocate to another city or state, the plan should have a provision to cover that in which both parties agree to provide the other with change of address information, unless that parent is relocating out of safety concerns.
Remediation – While your parenting plan is a legal document, that does not mean that it shouldn’t offer some type of flexibility should situations change. To ensure this flexibility, your plan should include a provision that allows you and your ex-spouse to remediate any (or all) of the plan should it become unworkable or if either parent wishes to make modifications.
How to Negotiate a Parenting Plan
As stated earlier, parenting plan negotiations can often become stressful and argumentative because one parent might be left feeling like they are not being fairly considered in the plan. The problem is, if you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement, then the court will make these key decisions for you and your child. One way to avoid this and to improve the chances for a peaceful agreement is to use an experienced mediator.
At Mediation Professionals of Long Island, our mediators are experienced in helping separating or divorcing parents create effective, fair, and lasting parenting plans that most importantly see to the needs of the child or children. If you want to experience a less stressful negotiation and ensure that your parenting plan has your child’s best interests in mind, contact us today at 646-992-7440 or click here to send us a message.