01 of 09
How to Write a Parenting Plan
Some states require a parenting plan, while others don't. Even if the courts don't expect you to file a legally-binding parenting plan, consider working with your ex to develop a set of written guidelines and expectations for raising your kids together. After all, coparenting is much like being business partners, and you'd never run a business with someone you didn't communicate with.
To get started, of the packet. Then click "next" below for a step-by-step explanation of... what information you need to include.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I fill out the parenting plan worksheets? You can either fill the forms out on your own and then meet with your ex to discuss it or sit down and fill out the forms together. Either way, you should be ready to stand your ground about issues that are important to you, but also be willing to make compromises.
Is the parenting plan legally binding? Your parenting plan will only be legally binding if you file it with the courts. Signing it, or even having it notarized, does not make it legally binding.
What if my state provides its own forms? You can still use these worksheets as a guide to make sure that no important elements are left out of your parenting plan.Continue to 2 of 9 below.
02 of 09
Basic Residential Schedule
The first thing you'll want to do when developing your parenting plan is to consider the children's basic residential schedule.
- Where will they live?
- Will either parent's home be considered the children's primary residence?
- Will the residential schedule be the same every week of the month?
- Will the residential schedule change on the weekend?
As you consider these questions, remember that the residential schedule is different from visitations. We'll cover that in the next step.Continue to 3 of 9 below.
03 of 09
Basic Visitation Schedule
You'll also want to create a formal plan for how you will schedule parent-child visitations.
- Will there be regular weeknight visits?
- Will there also be regular overnight weekend visits?
- If so, how often?
"Typical" visitation amounts to approximately 20% of the total parenting time. However, don't let that figure limit you. Working together, you can create a schedule that includes much more time with the non-custodial parent. What's important to remember for the children is... keeping the schedule consistent. This really helps them to adapt and flourish under your combined care.Continue to 4 of 9 below.
04 of 09
You'll want to map out in your parenting plan how your children will spend each holiday during the year.
- Will the schedule stay the same each year?
- Will you alternate major holidays between even and odd years?
- What holidays are most important to each of you?
Remember to consider that the routine will be like for the children, too. They have a right to build up memories of spending major holidays with each of you. As hard as it is to consider the holidays when you'll be on your own,... encouraging your children to spend this key time with your co-parent is important.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
Also remember to consider how you would like to handle special occasions, such as:
- Mother's Day
- Father's Day
Again, remember to think about what the experience will be like for your kids, too. In addition, if there are other family members' birthdays to consider - such as half-siblings - make sure you include them here.Continue to 6 of 9 below.
06 of 09
School Vacations During the Academic Year
Consider how you would like your children to spend their school vacations. Typically, this time is shared between residences.
- Where will the kids spend winter break?
- Where will the kids spend spring break?
- Will the schedule be the same each year or alternate years?
In addition, you'll want to plan for school holidays that take place on Mondays or Fridays.Continue to 7 of 9 below.
07 of 09
Summer Vacations and General Transportation
You'll also want to add summer vacation plans into your parenting plan and consider the specific details for how the children will get from one home to the other.
- If the children need to fly, which parent will purchase the plane tickets?
- Will either parent accompany the children on these flights?
- Who can be present with either parent during exchanges?
- Who can not be present?
In addition, remember to be specific regarding the use of child safety seats.Continue to 8 of 9 below.
08 of 09
Schedule Changes, Parent-Child Communication, and Decision Making
There is still more to consider as you develop your co-parenting plan.
- How will you handle occasional changes to the schedule?
- Can visits be rescheduled?
- Under what circumstances?
- Can the kids phone the other parent at any time?
- What about email?
- Who has the power to make day-to-day decisions?
- What about major decision-making authority?
These are all important issues that must be considered when you're developing your parenting plan.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
In addition to all the things we've covered so far, there are several more items you'll want to include in your parenting plan.
- If either of you has to hire a babysitter, will the other parent have the option of filling in for you?
- What legal action must be taken before the formal plan can be changed?
- What if either of you relocates?
- How will you handle contact with extended family members?
- What about new dating partners?
In addition, you may want to include special concerns such as pool... safety, food allergies, and extra-curricular activities.