Components of a Successful Parenting Plan

Happy african american dad embracing daughter concept for successful parenting plan.

Co-parenting isn’t easy — no matter how acrimonious your relationship with your former spouse or partner is, you will need to communicate regularly when it comes to raising your children. A parenting plan is a critical document that can help co-parents who are divorced or no longer live together avoid disputes that can lead to litigation. While every family’s situation is unique, this document should be specifically tailored to meet your family’s needs. However, here are several provisions every successful parenting plan should include to ensure the best interests of your children are met:

Parenting Time Schedule

While a parenting plan should allow for flexibility, the parenting time schedule outlined in the document should be as specific as possible to limit the potential for conflict. A parenting time schedule should work for both parents and provide for the child’s emotional, physical, and psychological needs — while allowing them to foster a bond with each parent. Although there is no definitive method for determining the rotation, common schedules can include a 2-2-3, 3-4-4, or a 2-2-5-5 pattern. Parents might also alternate every other day, every week, or each weekend.

Holiday Schedule

In addition to establishing the school-year parenting time schedule, parents must also consider how they will share the holidays and school breaks. If parents are amicable, they might consider spending the holidays together with the children. Or they might decide to split the day in half if they live a close distance to each other. In cases where neither of these options are a possibility, parents might choose to alternate where the children spend the holidays each year.

Decision Making

When parents share legal custody, a plan for decision-making should be clearly defined in the parenting plan. Crucial decisions that must be made on behalf of the child typically concern healthcare matters, education, religious upbringing, and extracurricular activities. Deciding how issues related to these matters will be decided in advance can reduce the possibility of future disputes.

Co-Parent Communication

A key component of co-parenting is healthy communication. Parents should have a plan in place that addresses the methods by which they will communicate information about their children — whether it be through text message, email, phone, or in person. In contentious cases, parents might find it helpful to utilize a co-parenting app to assist them with communicating effectively. Regardless of how parents decide to communicate, children should never be used as messengers between them.

Communicating with Your Children

In addition to establishing a plan for communication between co-parents, you will also need to address communication between the children and the parent who is not with them. Phone calls, FaceTime, and online chats are all good ways parents can stay in touch with their children when they do not have parenting time. Choose a method that works best for your situation and specify it in your parenting plan.

Custody Exchanges

A good parenting plan will not only outline the schedule for custody, but also the logistics that are involved with the custody exchange. In situations that are low conflict, parents might agree to a custody transfer at either of their homes. But this may not work in all cases — other places to consider for a custody exchange can include a public parking lot, library, school, or another mutually agreed upon location. If parents live far from each other and plane or train travel is necessary, this provision should be even more detailed and specify who’s responsible for paying the costs of transportation.

Disciplinary Guidelines

Children thrive on routine and can greatly benefit when they know what is expected of them in each household. Establish a common set of rules for both homes to ensure your children feel safe, comfortable, and secure. Maintaining similar rules and disciplinary guidelines can help children understand what behaviors are acceptable — and can provide them with a sense of stability.

No Disparaging Remarks

If you and your co-parent are not on friendly terms, it’s important to keep the conflict away from your children. A provision should be included in your parenting plan that prohibits making disparaging remarks about the other parent or badmouthing them in front of the children. The purpose of such a clause is to protect the child’s relationship with both parents and prevent parental alienation.

Dispute Resolution

A successful parenting plan should keep parents out of the courtroom — but this doesn’t mean that you and your co-parent won’t face disputes from time to time. Include a provision that addresses the method you wish to use to resolve any disputes that may arise. For instance, you might agree to go to mediation or use another alternative dispute resolution method to avoid litigation. You should also have a procedure in place for making changes to the parenting plan as your children grow older.

Contact an Experienced Massachusetts Family Law Attorney

Co-parenting after divorce can be a challenge but having a thorough parenting plan in place can keep your focus on your children’s best interests. At Krispin Law in Needham, Massachusetts, we are dedicated to providing our clients with compassionate counsel and reliable representation for a wide variety of family law matters, including drafting and negotiating parenting plans. To learn more about how we can assist you with your case, we invite you to contact Krispin Law to schedule a consultation by calling (617) 421-9090. We offer both in-person and virtual consultations for your convenience.

Categories: Family Law