Parenting Plan: Agreements

A Parenting Plan consists of two components:

1.     Agreements between the parents as to how to care for the child and

2.     A detailed schedule

In this article we will address the common types of agreements found in parenting plans. Please see What is a Parenting Plan? for an overview, or for more information on schedules, see Parenting Plan: The Schedule, or our Sample Parenting Plan - Amicable, or Sample Parenting Plan - Formal for more information on the plan and on the schedules.

There is little we can say to ease the pain or difficulty, but the fact that you are choosing a parenting plan over a litigious court process is, truly, a tremendous start.

 

Agreements

Parenting plans can be as unique as each family. We have outlined below many of the categories that are typically included, however depending on the family, the possibilities are endless. It is always important for each family to address any of the unique family rituals, needs, wants, etc., to develop a plan that is fully customized to meet their family’s needs.

Depending on the level of conflict, the drafting of this plan can be casual or extremely detailed. It is important that this plan be a tool to help the family avoid any misunderstandings and to continue to reduce conflict. 

a.  Child Care
The plan should specify agreements as to child care providers, who will pay for them, who has the right of first refusal should the parent not be able to care for the child during a specified time and who will make job accommodations should the child be home sick.

b.  Education and Extracurricular
All agreements about education and extracurricular should be addressed. For example, where the child will attend school, who will attend parent-teacher conferences, what activities the child will attend, who will be responsible for both the financial as well as the transportation to and from activities.

c.   Exchanges
Detail about transitions, location, and pick-up and drop-off times. It is always important to determine these with the least amount of interruption to the child. For example, pick-up and drop off times that coincide with school hours and activity schedules are so much easier than exchanges at bedtime.

d.  Communication
Establish how parents will communicate information about the children, schedule changes, etc. the expectation and timing of response, and how parents will resolve conflicts.  Also include, boundaries of what is, and what isn’t, appropriate to discuss with the child, as well as an agreement never to speak negatively about the other parent.

e.  Accommodations for Extended Family
Often extended family lives out of town and visits for special events or other require a disruption to the schedule. An accommodation for this should be addressed.

f.    Accommodations for Employment
The accommodation for travel associated with each spouse’s  job should be discussed.

g.  Holidays/Birthdays/Gifts
Holidays can be one of the most difficult subjects to address. It is important to detail how each holiday will be handled and to understand that it is a disruption to the schedule. Agreements should be made to try to balance fairness to the parents with allowing the child to enjoy the holidays rather than dread it due to the stress created by transitions. Birthdays and joint vs. separate celebrations should be discussed along with agreements about big ticket gifts.

h.  Medical and Health Care
The plan should include a protocol for who will organize medical appointments and agreements about treatment, protocols, and paying for out of pocket medical expenses. It should also clarify who will stay home when a sick child requires it.

i.     Other Relationships
As difficult as it can be, in some situations is important to address the issue of agreements and boundaries around how the parents and children will interact with new relationships should they enter into the picture.

j.     Routine
It can be helpful to address agreements to a child’s routine, diet, discipline, homework, etc. to provide a reliable routine and consistency in both homes. This is always easier said than done

k.   Special Needs
It is important to include considerations to address any special or unique needs of the child or family.

l.     Unique family rituals, holidays or other
Every family has its own set of rituals, holidays, and events, be it religious, tradition, or familial, and a successful plan allows a family to include these rituals to preserve a parent's right to continue to raise the child as he/she chooses, in the context of shared parenting.

m. Vacation and Travel with the Child
Agreements for protocol when traveling with the child should be addressed. For example, advance notification, providing an itinerary and contact information, agreement to the custodian of the passport, agreement to consent to obtaining a passport.

n.  Revising the Plan
Due to the ever-changing needs of growing children and a family, parenting plans are never meant to be permanent, so there should be an agreement about how and when to revisit the plan, and how to handle any disagreements. Often families with multiple children will have varying plans to accommodate their needs. And, families with parents living in different states should get advice as to which state has jurisdiction over the plan.

We know that no matter how many checklists we throw at you, you are still faced with having to work with the other parent during a stressful time and that the development of a parenting plan can trigger a lot of emotional angst. There is little we can say to ease the pain or difficulty, but the fact that you are choosing a parenting plan over a litigious court process is, truly, a tremendous start.

Each parent has his/her own set of expectations and needs, but what is far more important is a child-centric plan that takes care of the child's needs at each point along their development and growth. We know that you are living in the moment and under a lot of stress, but we genuinely believe that children will remember more about having two great parents than about the discrepancy of hours spent at one house or the other.

 

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