Which parenting plan should we choose?

Happy mother and son

Choosing a parenting plan that best fits the needs of your child is no easy task. Typically, the Arizona courts favor when co-parents are able to reach an agreement on their own parenting time schedule. In joint legal custody cases, Arizona family law requires a written parenting plan that must be reviewed periodically and provides a way to resolve conflicts about custody and parenting time. If co-parents are able to agree on a parenting plan together it often indicates that both co-parents are satisfied with the parenting plan which will create less cause for conflict in the future. It is in the best interest of the child when co-parents cooperate with each other. Co-parents who have continuous conflict between each other put their children at a greater risk for serious long-term emotional problems in the future.

Child development is a very sensitive process. This time is crucial in building a strong relationship with your child. It is important to create your parenting plan giving both co-parents significant amounts of time with the child in order to grow a strong bond between both parents and child. The following are some ideas to keep in mind regarding the age of your child and how that should affect your own parenting plan.

Newborns: Newborns are able to identify their parents very soon after their birth. They become attached to them as a result of the consistent attention they are receiving from both parents and the love that each parent displays to them. On the other hand, newborns do not have fully developed memory, which makes frequent contact with each parent extremely important. Newborns are also extremely sensitive to the emotions of the parents. Prolonged and consistent conflict between the parents could emotionally damage the child even though they are very young. It is important to keep conflict to a minimum and if that is not possible, make sure that the child is not present with you and your co-parent during that time.

Ages two to five: Children at this age are just beginning to gain independent skills. They are learning to do some things on their own but still cling to their parents when they do not feel comfortable or unsafe. It is important to give each co-parent significant amounts of time with the child during this time so that the child does not become less familiar with one parent and more familiar with the other.

Ages six to nine: It is still important for children in this age group to spend a good amount of time with both co-parents. Depending on the personality of the child, they may begin to favor one home over another or the amount of time that is spent in one home over the other. It is important to notice these subtle differences in your child and take note of them when creating a parenting plan.

Ages ten to twelve: At this age, children often become less attached to their parents and more so to their friends. They may also be involved in more extracurricular activities such as sports or clubs. It is important to hear the opinions of your child but assure them that you will make the final decisions as far as a parenting plan that you think is best for them.

Ages thirteen to eighteen: The lives of your children may become much more complex during this time. They will be juggling school, family, friends, and future plans which usually makes a strict parenting plan unsuitable for them. Teens can often times feel that they are being smothered by their parents and may choose to push away one or both parents.

The previous information was taken from the guide “Planning for Parenting Time: Arizona’s Guide for Parents Living Apart,” written by a task force established by the Arizona Supreme Court to help parents come to an agreement on their own. For more information and examples on creating a parenting plan that best fits the needs of your family visit Arizona Supreme Court Parenting Plan Guidelines.


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.