What to consider when making a parenting plan
A parenting agreement offers a framework for how parents will raise their child(ren) after separation or divorce and can often reduce or prevent conflict by establishing clear guidelines to manage expectations. For now, here are some considerations when creating your own parenting plan.
Firstly, the approach to your parenting agreement can be simple and doesn’t have to use fancy legal terms. It should balance having enough details to be useful while remaining flexible enough to be reasonably applied. You must consider how well you are able to work with the other parent when deciding how much detail is required to clarify expectations. After all, these guidelines are intended to prevent or reduce future disputes and a child has greater chances of coping with their parents’ separation or divorce if parents co-operate with each other.
Secondly, put your child’s best interests first and reflect on their age and current/future stages of when designing your agreement as it relates to the following key topics:
1. Living arrangements and Parenting Schedules
Is it in your child’s best interests to live mainly in one home or move between the two? Consider the proximity of both parents’ homes and handling of child’s belongings (e.g. who will purchase 2 sets of items at each home vs. moving items in between). Also address the scenario where a parent moves (e.g. 30 to 60 day advance notice and consent requirements if they’re interested in child moving with them). Details that may seem trivial now should also be pro-actively addressed, regardless of how amicable and co-operative your relationship, to ensure clear guidelines and avoid future resentment or frustration. Consider:
- Drop-off/pick-up logistics to establish reliable habits from the outset (i.e. time windows, days, location, person responsible). The daily routine of each parent should be practically considered to avoid being overly rigid such as unpredictable working hours.
- Documenting rules on how to handle changes to schedule due to illness, lateness, or unforeseen events (i.e. advance notice, make-up time?) can alleviate conflict.
- Rules on communication when the child is with the other parent (i.e. phone, digital, pictures, etc.)
- Childcare and babysitting arrangements
- Managing your child’s social life (i.e. who chauffeurs to birthday parties/sleepovers and purchases gifts for child to give, etc.)
2. Vacation/Special Days and Travel
For the child’s sake its often best to decide and agree early on how statutory and religious holidays, summer vacation and other school breaks will be handled to help manage their own expectations. Consider whether child spends certain holidays with one parent every year (e.g. Mother’s or Father’s Day) versus holidays which alternate between households. You may also consider other significant days such as their birthdays or milestone events (e.g. graduation, family weddings).
Travel is another important topic. Does one or both parents desire advance notice and consent for travel (e.g. local and out-of-province) beyond what may be required by law when travelling out of country? Decide who will maintain and store the child’s passport. Each parent should have a copy of their passport number.
3. Health Care
Parenting involves taking care of your child in sickness and in health. To ensure the continued quality of care your child enjoyed before your separation, consider pro-actively addressing topics such as:
- Who is responsible for holding and maintaining child’s health card? Will it follow the child’s movement between homes?
- Who takes time off work when child is ill?
- How decisions and consent will be approached on dental and medical treatment including vaccinations, preventative procedures vs. emergency situations
- How will each parent notify each other in case of medical emergencies?
- How will access to medical records be managed or shared?
- Managing costs of special needs that may appear over time (e.g. orthodontic braces, speech therapy, dietary restrictions, prescription eyewear, counselling)
- Logistical arrangements for medical or dental check-ups
- Medical costs including insurance (who secures and maintains policy, submits claims, co-payments)
To ensure a seamless transition with your child’s school consider how to approach decisions such as:
- Choice of school and additional needs like tutoring
- Logistics (pick-up/drop-off)
- Access and sharing of school records
- Attendance of parent-teacher conferences and school events
- Signing permissions forms for school events versus payment and attendance
- Absences (illness and other circumstances)
5. Other parenting topics
There are many other key conversations to be had in the parenting world. Why not consider documenting them in your Parenting Plan? A non-exhaustive live includes:
- Decisions on religious and cultural education and activities including second-language instruction
- Policy on child’s use of electronic devices and phone since consistency is required from both parents
- Dietary and nutritional preferences and restrictions
- Gifts (both to their child and their social circle)
- Decisions on family pets and whether they move between homes
- When it’s appropriate to introduce and involve a new partner or sibling to your child
- Handling visits from extended family
Lastly, your parenting plan may want to contemplate how parents should communicate (frequency, method, type of info required) and a process for reviewing and making changes to the plan if special circumstances arise (e.g. parenting schedule, etc.). Also, many couples use an app to help manage co-parenting schedules such as Our Family Wizard or feel free to click here for a list of some of the more popular co-parenting apps.
Speak with an Edmonton family lawyer today regarding your parenting plan legal needs
If you are considering entering into a parenting agreement - contact us today because our family lawyers can assist you with its development, facilitating agreement between both parents and ensuring its enforceable in Court. Contact usfor a consultation today by calling 587-410-2500.
*Please note the content in this blog offers a general overview and does not constitute legal advice as every case is unique from one another. We encourage you to seek legal advice for answers related to developing a parenting plan suitable to your specific situation.