Your Parenting Agreement
Your parenting agreement spells out how you and the other parent will continue to provide and care for your children after you separate. An effective plan is customized to fit the needs of your family situation and contains information on how you will handle many common scenarios.
Parents have different strengths, work schedule requirements, and financial abilities, so it’s important to remember the following when crafting your mutual parenting agreement:
- The childcare responsibilities that each parent has had before the separation.
- The involvement of each parent in the child’s educational and recreational activities.
- The individual needs of your child and the important issues for each of your children.
- The parenting strengths of each parent and how you both want to divide up parenting responsibilities.
- Your children’s preferences and their relationships with each other.
- Whether your children need individual time with each parent.
- How you and the other parent will put your children’s needs above your own.
- How you both will protect your children from conflict and disagreements between the parents.
- How you will inform your children about the details of your parenting plan.
You should also remember that:
- Your plan must comply with your state custody guidelines and laws in order for the court to accept it.
- Your child’s age impacts what is appropriate for your plan.
- You can include military provisions in your plan if one or both of your is in the military.
- When parents live in different states, one state has jurisdiction over your plan and you must follow the laws of that state.
- Include provisions for long-distance travel in your plan if the parents live a long distance from each other.
- You can make a temporary parenting plan when you first separate until you have a permanent custody plan.
- You should modify your plan as your children get older and their needs change.
- If you have multiple children, you can have a split custody arrangement where each parent has custody of different children.
Parenting Time Schedule
This section of the parenting agreement outlines when the children will be with each parent, including specifications for the school year, summers, holidays, vacations, days off school, and other considerations. The children’s needs should guide the decisions both parents make with the schedule, although the parent’s work schedule and flexibility should be kept in mind. If one parent has a flexible work schedule or can work from home, it may make sense for that parent to deal with sick days and half days and other situations that don’t fit into the regular schedule. Working together for the best schedule for everyone is the goal.
Your plan must designate if one parent has sole legal custody or if parents share joint legal custody. This determines who has the authority to make decisions for and about your children. You can also specify if one or both of the parents will have access to a child’s school or medical records. You can also decide who is the custodial parent, who will be able to claim the children as a dependent come tax time.
Medical and Health Care
Your plan should contain medical and health care information that explains how the parents will pay for medical and dental costs and how the parents will provide medical insurance for the children.
Your plan should also include information about how the parents will choose health providers for the children, who is responsible for making medical appointments, and who will take care of a sick child who needs to stay home (this can be outlined in the scheduling section of the agreement as well).
Education and Extracurricular Activities
The education information in your plan includes where your child will attend school, how the parents will choose the child’s school, who pays for school expenses, and who attends parent-teacher conferences and school open houses.
This is also where you will outline who pays for sports and other after-school activities, summer camp, music lessons, and tutoring. In addition to paying for these items, the parents need to agree on who is responsible for driving to and fro and attending games, performances, and other events.
Information about exchanges in your plan helps your schedule run smoothly. You need to decide where exchanges take place and who drives the children for exchanges.
Your plan can also explain how the parents will communicate about schedule changes and rescheduling parenting time. Keeping a cordial relationship with the other parent can keep exchanges from being difficult for the children.
Parenting guidelines are rules in the parenting plan that both parents agree to follow as they raise the children. You can have guidelines about discipline, food and diet, bedtime routines, screen time, cell phone privileges, tobacco and alcohol use around the children, etc. You can also have rules about who is able to live in the household when a parent has the child.
Your plan should explain where your child goes for child care when the parents work, how the parents will decide on child care for the child, and who will pay for child care.
You can also include the right of first option, which says that if a parent isn’t available for scheduled parenting time, the other parent is offered the time first.
Your agreement should include how the parents will communicate (phone, email, text, through lawyers only) and what issues they will communicate about. It’s important to stipulate that parents will always have updated contact information for each other.
- Travel and relocation
- Child support and financial information
- Rules for revising the plan
- Special needs of each child
- Dispute resolution
- What happens when one parent wants to skip their time with the children
- Parent/Child relationship when they are with the other parent (phone calls, video calls, etc)
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