What is a parenting plan?
A parenting plan is a negotiated agreement between parents that can help them to decide upon the parenting responsibilities after their divorce. The plan is mutually agreed between parents, normally with the aid of a trained mediator. A parenting plan is not set in stone, and may include arrangements for changing the plan at a future date. In fact, flexibility is the key in producing a good parenting plan to make sure that the children’s needs are being met.
There are several advantages in producing a parenting plan:-
• Children feel well cared for and there are procedures which are put in place for their immediate and long term care.
• Parents are happy that their children are more certain about their future.
• The parenting plan is comprehensive and can include headings and sections to sure that every aspect of a child’s care can be dealt with.
• As well as things such as financial planning for children, the plan can also include cultural and religious issues.
• The plan is produced with the help of a trained mediator who can make sure that it includes every aspect which is essential to the well-being of your children.
• Helps to resolve future disagreements between parents.
• Can be modified to take into account the needs of the child.
What should be included in a parenting plan?
A parenting plan should include all aspects of looking after children. This can be divided up into the short term, medium terms and long term needs. In the short term you will need to make sure that a child’s needs are being met in terms of taking to, and collecting from school or nursery and in terms of eating and sleeping arrangements. In the medium term there may be decisions to be made on which school children will attend or whether they are going to be inducted into a particular religion, perhaps through baptism. In the long tem, the plan should consider the child’s financial future. Perhaps they will be going to university, or you may wish them to inherit property.
The best thing about parenting plans is their flexibility. Different parents, and children, have different needs. It may be that you feel that you agree on every aspect of your child’s upbringing. However, difficulties can emerge in the future and it makes sense to include as much as possible in the plan. It is better to have too much detail rather than too little as, in the latter case, disagreements may occur in the future. These can be hard to resolve, and may result in costly legal battles.
A good parenting plan should include:-
• Where children are going to live.
• Arrangements for bedtimes, and waking times in the morning.
• Whether children are going to stay with each parent on different nights of the week.
• Who is going to look after the children if they are ill,
• What to do if children have any particular disabilities, or other special needs.
• If living plans are going to change in the future.
• Decisions on who is going to drop off, and collect, children from school.
• Who is going to be cooking the children’s needs, or otherwise providing for their diet.
• Arrangements for hobbies and clubs.
• Holiday and vacation arrangements.
• Whether the children are going to attend an agreed school / nursery.
• Which religion the children should be raised in.
• Cultural issues, such as religious holidays or dress.
• Healthy eating and exercise,
• Use of the internet and other electronic media.
• Which television programmes children should be allowed to watch.
• Arrangements to meet with friends.
• How grandparents are going to be included in the arrangements.
• Contact with members of the extended family.
• Savings for university, travel or other long-term projects.
• Inheritance and other issues related to financial matters.
• Changes in arrangements in the future.
• Nominating a guardian for the child.
Who can help me to complete a parenting plan?
If you have decided to produce a parenting plan a trained mediator is the best person to enable you to complete it. A mediator will talk to you and your ex-partner about the issues that need to be resolved in terms of you and your children. They will also be aware of the major types of issues that should be included in the plan, and whether you will need a number of mediation sessions to draw up the plan, or whether only a few sessions are needed.
What are the next steps?
If you have decided to produce a parenting plan there are many sources of information to help you. CAFCASS (The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) produce a guide that can help you to complete your parenting plan. They advise that you use an expert mediator in order to do so,
After you have consulted information, or to find out more, you should contract us for an initial appointment. We can put you in touch immediately with one of our expert mediators who can help you and your ex-partner to put together a parenting plan for your children’s present situation, as well as their future.