Children need love and guidance from both parents. When their parents no longer live in the same household a parenting plan helps to create a predictable environment for children to spend time with each of their biological parents. A parenting plan is a legal document that addresses common parenting concerns, such as:
- Dates and times of visitation
- Holiday schedules. (For instance a child may spend Christmas Eve with mother and Christmas day with father. Or the child may spend both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with the mother in even numbered years and with the father in odd numbered years.)
- How medical decisions will be made.
- School and social functions. (For instance, how will the noncustodial parent be notified of parent/teacher conferences, school programs, and the child’s athletic events?)
The best parenting plans anticipate areas of potential conflict between the parents and provide balanced solutions. In addition, good parenting plans will provide a method for the parents to work out conflicts that they can’t resolve themselves by requiring mediation or arbitration. Initially parenting plans may seem rigid and unnatural, but over time they provide both the parents and the children a predictable rhythm to their lives.
Parenting plans are living documents—which means that they need to modified as the children grow and their needs change. While many courts have court facilitators that will help you write your parenting plan, it may be necessary to a hire a mediator to help work out conflicts. Most areas of the country have Dispute Resolution Centers that offer mediation on a sliding fee scale.