Your parenting agreement will govern the way you and your ex-spouse interact in relation to your children. It will explain the when and where of parental custody and visitation and how you will share your caregiving responsibilities.
As you can imagine, your needs and the needs of your children and your ex will change over time. So, in addition to providing a clear structure, your parenting plan also needs to be sufficiently flexible to accommodate the evolving circumstances of your family.
A thorough parenting plan should include the following:
- An explanation of living circumstances and/or visitation schedules - If your children are infants or toddlers, you may want to establish one permanent home for them and give the other parent visitation rights. This may change as the children get a little bit older and can better tolerate a 50-50 custody split. Alternatively, you may prefer to simply give one parent physical custody and the other parent regular visitation.
- An agreement regarding which parent makes certain decisions - In many cases, the parents will make decisions about their children jointly even if the kids live with only one parent. However, the parents may also choose to assign this decision-making authority over to just one parent to prevent potential disagreements or delays in decision-making.
- Holiday schedules - A good parenting plan outlines how holiday and vacation time will be shared between the parents.
- Third-party visitation - Parents should reference instructions for time spent with grandparents, aunts and uncles and other third-parties who want to maintain a relationship with the children.
- Procedures for dispute resolution - Parents should outline a course of action to take in the event of unresolved conflicts. The parents can detail the dispute resolution procedure they plan to use, e.g., attend a mediation session, so their in a clear path ahead.
- Procedure to alter the parenting plan - The flexibility of the parenting plan is important. Therefore, parents need to have a procedure for altering the parenting agreement when necessary.
What should your parenting agreement include?
Since every family's situation is different, your parenting plan should be catered to the unique needs of your family and children. Make sure you understand the various strategies parents regularly employ in their parenting plans before you finalize such an agreement.