A parenting plan is a legal document detailing the responsibilities of each parent following a divorce or separation. Many states require parenting plans because the courts find that parents who agree in writing about the details of how they're going to raise their children actually have fewer disagreements requiring the intervention of the courts.
Which states require parenting plans?
The following states provide parenting plan forms and/or suggestions on their websites. You can use this information to determine whether a parenting plan is required in your state and what you need to do to complete the paperwork and properly file your parenting plan.
Do I need a lawyer to file a parenting plan?
Technically, you can file pro se, which means representing yourself. However, parents who are filing a parenting plan for the first time would be wise to seek legal counsel, especially if the other parent is not in agreement with the proposal.
What should we include in our parenting plan?
If your state provides parenting plan forms, you'll want to follow the instructions provided. At the very least, you'll want to cover:
- Residential schedules
- Visitation schedules/parenting time
- Special occasions
- School vacations
- Summer vacations
- Transportation, and
- Decision making power
You should also consider including:
- Residential concerns (regarding each child's personal space)
- Stipulations about parental alcohol, nicotine, or drug use
- Child care
- Information sharing
- The use of occasional babysitters
- Right of first refusal procedures
- Relocation guidelines
- Local and foreign travel guidelines
- Religious activities
- Between-visit communication guidelines
- Medical insurance
- Medical care
- Sleeping arrangements and expectations
- Expenses not covered by child support
- Participation in children's activities
- Participation in school events
- Stipulations about contact with either parent's future partners, and
- Modifications of the parenting plan agreement
Don't Miss: 30 Things to Include in Your Parenting Plan
If you need to write your parenting plan from scratch, use our free parenting plan worksheets to get started.
If our state does not require a parenting plan, can we file one anyway?
Absolutely. It's always a good idea for co-parents to put a plan in writing whether it's required or not. Speak with your lawyer or the clerk for your local family court about how to file the document once you've reached an agreement.
What's the difference between a stipulated parenting plan and a proposed parenting plan?
A stipulated parenting plan is one that has been agreed to and signed by both parents, whereas a proposed parenting plan has been presented to the court by only one parent. Judges often approve stipulated parenting plans without requiring a court hearing, since the parents are already in agreement.
How can I get my ex to agree to my parenting plan?
The best way to reach an agreement is to talk with one another about your hopes and expectations. Some families find that sitting down with a child custody mediator can be helpful, as well. Particularly if you're both stuck in old patterns of behavior and are prone to making assumptions about one another, the mediation process can help you uncover what you have in common and find new ways to work together for the good of your children.