Parenting plans, like any good contract, are designed to spell out each party’s rights and obligations. They aim to stop trouble before it gets started and keep the parties involved out of court.
But parenting plans often fail to achieve their goals simply because couples forget to address some important details. What may seem small, picky or “no big deal” during the negotiation process can become a major issue later on. Here are several things that every couple should address in their parenting plan (but probably won’t):
- What autonomous decisions can each of you make? When your child is with you, can you serve cake for breakfast if you want? Can your spouse let your child play video games on a weeknight when the kids are in their care? You need to have a clear understanding about what boundaries each party has.
- Do you get the right of first-refusal for child care? If your ex-spouse is called away on a business trip during their parenting time, do you want the right to decide if your child stays with you instead of their aunt and uncle? Put it in writing.
- Do all the child’s possessions travel with the child? This is particularly important for young children — unless you want to constantly buy clothes and shoes that disappear to your ex-spouse’s house never to be seen again.
- How do you negotiate extracurricular activities? Imagine this: Your spouse tells your child they can take up band — but practices and events will deeply cut into your parenting time. If you want to avoid situations like that, make sure you have a clause that requires both parents’ permission for extracurricular hobbies.
- What happens if your child is sick? If your child is violently ill with the flu, for example, you don’t want to force the child to make a custody change until they recover. Knowing how to handle this situation in advance can resolve a lot of conflicts.
- Who can be around for custody exchanges? If your ex-spouse’s mother is particularly hostile to you, for example, you may want to specify that grandma can’t be involved in the transfer of custody.
If you want to make certain that you hit the mark with your parenting plan, talk to an experienced attorney and enlist their help.