When parents divorce, courts typically require them to create a parenting plan that outlines each parent’s rights and responsibilities to their child. The parenting plan is a crucial part of creating a stable environment for a child after divorce, establishing boundaries around how each parent should act and the ways each parent must care for their child and share their time together.
Unfortunately, many parents do not understand that a parenting plan is not a suggestion of behavior by the court, it is a legally binding agreement that parents must respect. Violating a parenting agreement may have consequences, so it is important to create your own carefully. With some time and attention, you can create a strong parenting agreement that relieves tensions between divorced parents and clarifies the behavior expected from parents.
Key components of the parenting plan
Depending on your circumstances, your parenting plan may look much different from another’s but there are some core areas that are important to consider for any parent. As you build you parenting agreement, make sure to consider:
- Where the child’s primary home will be
- When and where you exchange custody of your child with the other parent
- Scheduled visitation
- Which parent has the final say on which aspects of a child’s upbringing, such as diet, medical care, faith practices
- Where your child spends their birthday and other holidays or vacation time
- Contact information for family members and friends
- Guidelines for resolving disputes between parents
- Boundaries around unacceptable interference behavior from one parent or another
Creating a strong parenting agreement requires both parents to set aside their own preferences and focus on the best interests of the child. This may mean giving up some decision-making power, or sacrificing other aspects of parenting that you treasure. However, a strong agreement treats each party fairly, making the child the first priority and balancing parents’ privileges with their responsibilities.
Put your child first to build a strong future
A good parenting plan is not only good for children, it is good for parents. Without a parenting plan, it is easy for one parent or the other to change their mind and suddenly refuse to cooperate. With a well-crafted agreement, each parent understands that they must work together for the best interests of their child and pay attention to the boundaries in the agreement to reduce conflict.
Make sure to use the strong legal resources you have available to build a parenting plan that meets your needs and keeps your rights protected throughout your child-raising years.