How to Create a Great Parenting Plan

An effective parenting plan can make co-parenting run much more smoothly. Planning for specific responsibilities can help both parents and children alike. The plan should outline how you and the other parent will take care of your kids and how you will address common issues that arise in the course of the parenting schedule. A court will almost always respect a parenting plan that both parents came up with, if reasonable. This means that the judge will assume the both of you have the child’s best interests in mind.  For parties who cannot agree on a parenting plan, the Court is bound to create one by weighing the factors listed in §61.13 (3), Florida Statutes, where approximately 20 considerations are evaluated to determine a timesharing schedule that is in the child’s best interest.

It’s important to know that in Florida, there are two important categories that are considered when creating a parenting plan: Timesharing and Parental Responsibility. Timesharing refers to a parent’s right of access to the child, including overnights, and contemplates an annual schedule for the parents.  Parental Responsibility refers to who will make decisions regarding the child’s educational, medical, religious upbringing, etc. Other considerations include exchanges, school districts, travel (both domestically and internationally), notice requirements, itineraries, holiday time, approved babysitters, communication between parents and communication between parents and children.

Below are a few tips to incorporate into your plan:

1. Include a Comprehensive Schedule

One of the most important reasons to create a parenting plan is to detail how you and the other parent will deal with scheduling issues. Set out when each parent will spend overnights with the child, including how many overnights each parent will have in the 365-day year. If possible, include things like when your child must attend after-school activities or extracurricular functions, like dance class or chess club. Also include the week-to-week schedule or biweekly schedule.  Address summer break, winter break, spring break and three day weekends from school to name a few.

 2. Use a Workable Maintenance Plan

Create a plan for how you will maintain and adjust your schedule to the time you have with your children. There will always be unexpected urgencies that warrant a change in schedule. How will you communicate these changes to the other parent? You may want to have shared electronic calendars with them or create worksheets that you can update on a regular basis. Communication is key.

 3. Decide on Special Events

Access to special events like birthdays or holidays can be a point of contention between parents. Sit down and determine how those events will work now by putting it in the parenting plan, long before the time comes for that family gathering. If Father’s Day falls on mom’s weekend, for example, consider making Father’s/Mother’s Day for that respective parent exclusively despite who has the weekend pursuant to the schedule.

 4. Discuss Expenses

Most often, the child’s expenses are paid proportionate to the percentage of time with the child.  It’s a good idea to determine which costs will be split or which expenses should the majority timesharing parent take on. Reducing these issues to writing in a parenting plan can avoid conflict and further Court intervention down the road.

 5. Consider How Disagreements Will Be Solved

Even the best plan will have some hiccups. Think about how you will handle disagreements as they arise. If you have a set procedure now, you can rely on that in the future. Plans like these can help the both of you handle situations where one of you feels like the other parent is being unreasonable with grace and civility (in theory).

Creating a parenting plan that addresses everything you need can be cumbersome and requires a detailed plan that comprehensively addresses all issues.  Our experienced Florida family law firm will be able to help you craft something that works for both parents and your children. Call McKINNON LEGAL for more information.