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Tips for Creating Parenting Plans Post-Divorce
By Shannon Cromwell, Extension Associate Professor
Parenting plans are legal agreements that outline clear schedules for children and provide guidelines for parents. They include each parent’s coparenting responsibilities and decision-making roles. Parenting plans help parents understand long-term plans and expectations for their children and provide a sense of continuity and security for children. They also provide a peace of mind for both parents (Emery, 2006). Parenting plans coordinate rules, schedules, schooling, and transitions between homes. When creating a parenting plan, parents should be flexible, committed, and considerate of their children’s perspective.
What should be included in a parenting plan?1. Purpose of Plan
This section should include the name and date of birth of all children. Parents should also include their parenting values and intentions. View this section as a pledge to work together for children’s best interests.2. Standards of Conduct
This section includes ground rules for how parents expect to organize their day-to-day life (Shear, 2010). Listed below are some sample standards.
- Addresses, phone numbers, and emergency contacts should be available to both parents.
- Medical and school records should be available to both parents.
- Both parents will accommodate their children’s desires to spend time with their other parent.
- Parents agree that children will have unrestricted phone access with the other parent.
- Parents will communicate regularly to discuss the needs of the children.
This section includes how parents will divide or share responsibilities for their children. Terms such as “custody” or “visitation” may be required in this section.4. Religious Affiliation
Choosing a religious affiliation can be a major decision for parents. Decisions concerning costs associated with membership should be discussed (Utah Courts, 2021).5. Basic Education and College
Parents must decide who will attend school conferences and receive report cards. Parents must also decide how tuition, transportation, uniforms, and school supplies will be divided. Planning for college funding should also be discussed.6. Insurances (medical, dental, and vision)
Parents need to make decisions concerning doctors. Medical insurance, surgeries, and medical records should be discussed as well. Parents must decide how medical expenses will be divided.7. Insurances (life and auto)
Parents need to make decisions concerning life insurance beneficiaries. They also need to determine how auto insurance payment will be paid.8. Child Care
Parents need to decide how childcare will be chosen and paid for when parents are working.9. Children’s Schedule with Each Parent
Parents will need to decide when children will spend time with each parent. The parenting plan should cover weekday and weekend visits (Utah Courts, 2021). Listed below are some other examples of scheduled visits:
- School year (overnights and activity time)
- Summers (overnights and activity time)
- Holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Good Friday, Easter, spring break, winter break, Hanukkah, Passover, High Holy Holidays, Chinese New Year)
- Three-day holidays/weekends (President’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, July Fourth, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day, Columbus Day)
- Birthdays (both child and parent)
Parents will need to decide how to divide travel costs, including gas, buses, trains, and planes. Deciding when and where to meet should be clear and specific.11. Residential Location and Moving
If one parent decides to relocate, parents will need to reevaluate decisions about what school children will attend, parent-child schedules, and travel arrangements (Shear, 2010; Utah Courts, 2021).12. Financial Contributions
This section of the parenting plan includes child support. The financial contribution by the nonresidential parent goes toward the costs of raising children. Guidelines for determining child support vary by state. Parents will need to include method of payment in their parenting plan.13. Duration of Agreement and Revisions of the Parenting Plan
Parenting plans are legally binding when filed with the court, but parents can go to court to modify the plan. If both parents agree on the modifications, they can move forward with the new plan. If parents disagree about the modification, they should first try to resolve it by discussing the issue. Consulting a trained mediator or attorney may resolve the disagreement14. Tax Consequences
Parents will need to discuss who will claim the children as deductions on their taxes.15. Access to Children’s Information and Records
Parents should include a written statement that grants them continued access to medical, educational, and other records.16. Deaths, Illnesses, and Unexpected Events
Although an unpleasant topic, parents should make out wills and have guardians in place if an unexpected death or illness occurs. This section of the parenting plan will help to ensure that children are safe and supported.
Parenting plans are important for providing consistency and predictability for both parents and children following a divorce (Nelson, 2015). More information about parenting plans and sample parenting plan forms can be found at https://www.utcourts.gov/howto/family/parenting_plans/.
- Emery, R. E. (2006). The truth about children and divorce: Dealing with the emotions so you and your children can thrive. Penguin Group.
- Nelson, R. W. (2015). Whose time is it anyway? How to develop a sensible parenting plan for parents and their children. Family Advocate, 38(1), 10-12.
- Shear, L. E. (2010). Relocation realities: Developing a long-distance parenting plan. Family Advocate, 33(1), 27-30.
- Utah Courts (2021, May 3). Parenting Plans. https://www.utcourts.gov/howto/family/parenting_plans/.