Creating a Parenting Plan That Works

When a family experiences a divorce or separation, a number of changes occur. Some of these changes are huge, affecting aspects of everyday life for the entire family. Other changes might seem rather small at the onset, but they can greatly influence many other things that may come up in the future. Co-parents really have a lot to think about when creating a parenting plan. By keeping your children’s needs at the forefront, thoughtfully choosing what to fight for, and regularly checking in on your plan, you and your co-parent have the ability to create a parenting plan that works.

Creating a parenting plan is like drawing out a blueprint for day-to-day family life and decision making after a divorce or legal separation. For this reason, it is so important for co-parents to work out their parenting plan in a way that realistically works for the whole family and favors the needs of the kids. In most custody cases, part of creating a parenting plan involves making decisions about both physical and legal custody. Physical custody refers to where a child lives and who will care for them on a daily basis. Your parenting schedule will reflect how your physical custody arrangement will be implemented. Legal custody refers to who will be responsible for making important decisions for the child regarding matters such as education and health care. When determining both physical and legal custody, don’t neglect the little specifics such as drop off and pick up details, activity arrangement, and holiday custody. Besides details having to do with your parenting schedule, you’ll need to work out details concerning shared parenting expenses and child support. Also, you’ll want to create a plan for how you and your co-parent will communicate and reach decisions together, especially if you share legal custody. Have a plan for whatever might come your way as to avoid surprises or added stress in the eleventh hour. Also, you and your co-parent need to be realistic about what truly fits the needs of your child. Be honest about what the best arrangement is for your child, even if it means that you might not get everything you wanted. In the heat of a divorce or separation, it’s easy for co-parents to forget that the goal should be to work out the best arrangement for the kids, not for themselves as individuals. A happy childhood hangs in the balance when creating a parenting plan. By working out the plan to favor your child’s needs, you’ll more likely be able to give them the happy childhood that they deserve.

Creating a parenting plan that works puts great emphasis on the needs of the kids, and in many cases, co-parents are in general agreement in how to best meet those needs. In other cases, an upset parent’s desire to win battles over the other parent might be so great that it takes precedence over their duty to steer clear of unnecessary conflict. Some matters are truly worth fighting for, but you must carefully evaluate which issues these are. Disputes that concern the health, safety and overall well being of a child are worth fighting for if you feel that your solution is the most favorable one for the child. If you find yourself fighting for something with an end goal to simply win over your co-parent, you might be working towards something that’s not worth the energy. Entering into a dispute with your co-parent can turn into a complex (and sometimes expensive) ordeal, so you should prepare yourself for what you’re getting into. Maintain a calm, business-like demeanor as you fight for what you feel is in the best interests of your child. Don’t create extra work for yourself by overreacting or putting too much emphasis on the trivial aspects of the dispute. Most importantly, keep your child in mind throughout the process, and remember that you are doing this to help create a better life for them.

Once your parenting plan is finalized and you’ve settled your important disputes, you and your co-parent must put the plan in action. You have to keep track of your parenting schedule, shared expenses, and other details which specifically concern certain situations. Because of this, you should remember to regularly check in with your parenting plan. Organize the details of your plan in a way that is easy to access and to read. Entering the details of your parenting plan into a web-based tool that is designed to document this kind of information is an easy and convenient way to make it available when you or your co-parent need to review it. Having the details of your parenting plan available online eliminates the task of shuffling through piles of papers to find one specific detail that you need right now. The OurFamilyWizard website offers co-parents a secure online location for this information that can be easily searched through and accessed from any device with internet access. Co-parents can view parenting schedules, expense and payment information, shared documents and any other important details pertaining to their family.  If a change is made to the parenting plan, this can be updated on the website by either parent, or even by family law professionals who work with the family. Regularly checking in with your parenting plan helps you to be better prepared for the future. As your kids grow and change, your parenting plan will likely need to experience some growth and change as well. The needs and best interests of your children will evolve as they get older, so your parenting plan must take that into account. The OurFamilyWizard website allows you to maintain an accurate record of your parenting plan over the course of time while also allowing for updates to be made as needed.

A good parenting plan is one that covers the best interests of the child at all times, now and in the future. Creating a parenting plan that works should involve maintaining the best interests of your child first and foremost, thoughtfully choosing what is worth fighting for, and constantly reviewing your plan to ensure that it continues to benefit your child. No matter what comes up between you and your co-parent, a detailed parenting plan that works in your children’s best interests will help your whole family face what the future may hold in a positive way.


NOTE: Many state and federal laws use terms like ‘custody’ when referring to arrangements regarding parenting time and decision-making for a child. While this has been the case for many years, these are not the only terms currently used to refer to these topics.

Today, many family law practitioners and even laws within certain states use terms such as ‘parenting arrangements’ or ‘parenting responsibility,’ among others, when referring to matters surrounding legal and physical child custody. You will find these terms as well as custody used on the OurFamilyWizard website.