April 20th, 2023
If you and your spouse have decided to part ways, creating a solid parenting plan that meets the best interests of your children is crucial. This is a document that is not only required by the court — but it can also help lay a positive foundation for co-parenting well into the future by helping you create new boundaries and expectations as parents living in two homes. A well-drafted parenting plan can eliminate disputes before they arise, set forth parental responsibilities, and ensure children have the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with both parents.
What to Include in a Parenting Plan
A parenting plan is not one-size-fits-all. Although it must include certain information, it should be specifically tailored to your family’s needs and all aspects of parenting. By creating a parenting plan, parents will draft a comprehensive document that provides specific guidelines that determine a variety of issues that affect their children — rather than let a judge who does not know them decide the outcome.
In addition to determining the basics, such as legal and physical custody of a child, a Minnesota parenting plan should address the following matters:
When parents share legal custody, it’s important to be as specific as possible when it comes to education matters. A good parenting plan can include provisions for how the parents will communicate information regarding the children’s education and schooling. It should also indicate how arrangements for parent-teacher conferences, special events, and extracurricular activities will be made.
Parents should discuss and outline the types of medical care their children require and will receive. This can include dental, physical, and mental health, any counseling needs, and other types of medical care. Responsibility for scheduling appointments should also be specified as well as issues concerning consent to emergency medical treatment.
Religion and Cultural Heritage
Which parent will determine participation in religious or cultural events should be outlined in the parenting plan. Major decisions such as these that concern the child’s upbringing can be decided by one parent or they may agree that the consent of both is required.
Parenting Time Schedule
Developing a parenting time schedule is often one of the most complicated components of a parenting plan. There are many different schedule arrangements parents may consider. For instance, the children might live with one parent during the week and the other on weekends. Parents might also alternate weekends or every few days. They might work in a midweek visit or alternate extending weekends. There are a variety of scheduling possibilities and it’s vital to consider what will be best for the children while allowing for flexibility. It can also address what can prompt a review of the schedule as they children get older or circumstances and needs change.
Vacation and Holiday Scheduling
Custody for holidays and school vacations can be arranged in numerous ways. Parents might split holidays or divide them based on the regular visitation schedule. Another common arrangement is alternating even and odd numbered years. When parents are amicable, they might even consider sharing holidays so the children get to spend quality time with both parents. Being clear about when a holiday begins and ends can also minimize future conflicts.
Methods of Contact
A parenting plan should identify methods for ongoing contact between the children and their parents. While phone calls are one of the many ways parents can keep the lines of communication open when they are not with their children, there are many other methods of contact. For example, FaceTime, Skype, and video platforms can allow for face-to-face communication if either parent lives long-distance and frequent visitation is not an option. Parents might also encourage mail, email, or text messaging as forms of contact, depending upon the child’s age.
Child Care Arrangements
Parents need to make sure they are on the same page about child care arrangements. This includes who drops the children off at school, who will care for them when they are ill, and who is authorized to pick the children up in an emergency. In addition, when children are older, parents should agree upon the length of time a child may be left unsupervised.
It’s essential to include a provision that addresses parental cooperation and communication in a parenting plan. Parents should agree how they will keep the lines of communication open when it comes to discussing their children and prioritize cooperation.
Responsibility for transportation of the children to and from school, sports, activities, and parenting time is a critical aspect of a good parenting plan. It’s even more important to address this matter when parents live some distance from each other. Including logistics for transportation in a parenting plan can help to avoid the potential for unnecessary conflict.
Methods of Dispute Resolution
Parenting plans aren’t always set in stone — they can be changed from time to time as a child grows. However, parents may not always be able to reach an agreement on modifications easily. In such cases, a provision should be included in the plan that specifies the agreed-upon methods used to resolve disputes without resorting to litigation. These can include mediation, working with a community parenting time consultant, or a neutral child specialist.
Changes in Residence
Parents might include a provision in the parenting plan that addresses residential moves and agree that they will discuss how the change impacts their children. This may also require re-negotiating the parenting time schedule and revisiting some of the other aspects of the parenting plan as necessary.
Working with a Neutral Child Specialist
Creating a parenting plan can be complex and it can be helpful to work with a neutral child specialist during the process. These are licensed mental health professionals who have knowledge in the areas of child-development, family systems, and communication. They are trained to work with both parents to develop a parenting plan that focuses on meeting the needs of their family — and can be an integral professional to have on a collaborative divorce team. If both parents agree, a neutral child specialist can also meet with the children briefly to help ensure they feel heard in the process and parents understand their children’s perspectives. This can help children feel that the divorce isn’t something that just happened to them but they feel heard in the process. And the neutral child specialist can be a resource for families after the divorce is final, if needed.
Contact an Experienced Minnesota Divorce and Family Law Attorney
If you are facing divorce, it’s vital to ensure you put your children first. A knowledgeable divorce and family law attorney who handles child custody matters can provide you with the legal counsel you need to create a comprehensive parenting plan that meets the needs of your family. Divorce and family law attorney Louise Livesay has been dedicated to helping clients in the Twin Cities area with a wide variety of matrimonial matters for over two decades. We welcome you to contact us online for a consultation or by calling 651-294-2338.