Including Provisions in Your Parenting Plan

Mother and daughter relax together on the couch.

A parenting plan is an extremely important, documented agreement that will largely influence your life as a co-parent. Essentially, your parenting plan will detail how you, your co-parent, and your child will go about your daily lives. For this reason, it's crucial that you and your co-parent ensure that the basic rules for raising your child are clearly defined in the document.

Beyond the fundamentals of your day-to-day parenting, many parenting plans also include additional provisions that you and your co-parent decide on. Including provisions in your parenting plan is a good way to thoroughly cover every aspect of your responsibilities as co-parents and provide an outline for both households to follow as obstacles arise. 

Before adding provisions to your parenting plan

Parenting plans require thorough consideration and—as much as possible—collaboration on the part of both parents involved. The plan should include everything you need to know as a co-parent, so drafting it should not be taken lightly. 

Before adding provisions to your plan, there are some major points that must be accounted for within your agreement. As with many issues surrounding the legal aspects of shared parenting, be sure to check the laws in your state to see if specific guidelines are required to include in your parenting agreement. Your family law attorney should be an excellent resource for learning more about this.

At its core, a parenting plan should include details about the following matters.

  • A definition of the type of legal arrangements you are implementing for both legal and physical custody and what responsibilities each parent will have in regards to each.
  • A method for making modifications to your parenting plan moving forward, if circumstances are to change in the future such as when your children become teenagers. 
  • A basic parenting time or visitation schedule that lays out where your child will be living on a regular basis. 
  • A method for making one-time modifications to the parenting schedule. This may include a right of first refusal clause.

Including your own provisions in your parenting plan

Now that the basic details of your parenting plan have been defined, you and your co-parent will be able to add your own provisions as necessary. These provisions will be useful in saving you both stress and unneeded conflict in the future.

The easiest way to come up with these provisions is to reflect on what issues currently exist within your co-parenting relationship. You'll also want to brainstorm scenarios that could come up and create conflict in the future and consider preventative provisions to help your family move past them. 

Any stipulation can be created as long as you and your co-parent come to an agreement on it. If you cannot agree on a provision, you may request that a judge make the determination. Remember that a judge must approve all provisions, even the ones you and your co-parent create on your own. A judge may even request that you state your argument as to why the provision is needed. Be sure to have a valid reason behind each provision you create, otherwise it may not be approved. 

Ideas for additional provisions

If you're unsure of where to start when it comes to brainstorming provisions, here are a few ideas for additional provisions to consider including in your parenting plan.

Always refer to a neutral third party

If you and your co-parent run into an issue that you cannot agree on yourselves, heading right to court can be an enormous hassle for you both. Consider adding a provision which states that you must first consult a neutral third party such as a mediator before taking disagreements to court. Settling issues this way will save you both time and money when compared to the effort and cost that goes into litigation.

Time and travel provisions

Now that your family is on a shared parenting schedule, you and your co-parent will both have a little less time with your children just due to the nature of this agreement. Before your divorce, neither of you might have thought twice about signing your child up for another extracurricular program or registered them for a school trip that takes them away for a few days. 

If you have concerns that your co-parent may schedule activities or trips for your child during your parenting time, you may want to consider including a provision that requires you both to agree on activities and trips for your child. This would ensure that everyone is on the same page about additions to the schedule.

No badmouthing

Divorce is difficult, and emotions are bound to arise. The emotions can become problematic if they start impacting your child. This can sometimes be the case when parents are saying negative things about each other in front of their child. 

If this is an ongoing or potential issue for you and your co-parent, think about including a provision that would prevent either of you from badmouthing each other in front of your child. Discuss with your attorney about how best to implement a provision such as this. 

Similar house rules

You and your co-parent are very likely to have some different rules in each of your homes, and that's typically fine. Children are good at adapting to different rules in different settings as they move between home, school, and friends' houses. However, it may be valuable to have some similarity in certain rules between your two homes to help your child know what's expected of them from you both.

Consider adding a provision that requires some rules to be similar. This might be about bed time, use of technology, homework schedules, and other matters. 

Including provisions in your parenting plan will help your whole family know what to expect as you all transition into shared parenting. Again, be sure to speak with your family law attorney to discuss ideas for additional provisions and to see if there are certain provisions that you cannot forget to add to your plan.