Shot of a young couple reviewing their finances while using their laptop

A parenting plan is a vital document that establishes how divorced parents will share the responsibilities associated with raising a child. The plan must be agreed to by the parties and signed by the court to become a binding order. However, it’s essential to understand that there are certain provisions and clauses every parenting plan should include to help avoid conflicts and ensure the best interests of the child are met.

Specifically, a good parenting plan should include provisions for the following:

1. Parenting Time Schedule

One of the most important provisions in a parenting plan is the schedule. Co-parents will need to choose an arrangement that works best for them and their family. For instance, a 50/50, 70/30, or 90/10 parenting time schedule — or another arrangement — might be considered, depending on the child’s needs. A plan should also address a schedule for each holiday, school vacation, and other special days throughout the year.

2. Custody Exchanges

It’s best to be as specific as possible when creating a parenting plan. Not only should a provision be included for who has custody of the child and when, but it’s essential to include details about the custody exchange. For example, will the co-parents pick up and drop the child off at each other’s homes when there is a custody exchange, or will the exchange take place in a neutral public location?

3. Decision Making

A major issue to address in a parenting plan is who will make decisions regarding the child’s wellbeing, healthcare, education, and religious upbringing. In cases involving joint legal custody, parents may make these decisions together. Otherwise, one parent might be solely responsible for making decisions. Sometimes, it may be best to designate one parent to make decisions in a particular area of the child’s life, and the other parent will make decisions in another area.

4. Screen Time

Although parents may have their own rules in their respective homes, it’s best to be consistent about certain things in both households, such as technology and screen time. It can be confusing for a child to have unlimited screen time in one parent’s home, only to be limited in another. Parents should resolve issues concerning screen time, phone use, and computer use in advance — and document their agreement in their parenting plan.

5. Dispute Resolution

Even when parents are amicable, custody disputes can arise from time to time. While it’s best to avoid the costly and lengthy litigation process, parents should specify in their plan that another form of dispute resolution, such as mediation, should be attempted first. Mediation allows parents to resolve their disputes outside of court with the help of a neutral third party. It is an informal and confidential process that also gives parents the tools they need to communicate in a healthy manner throughout their co-parenting relationship.

6. Communication

Effective communication is a crucial component of every co-parenting relationship. While parents will need to discuss important topics related to their child, the method and frequency of such communications should be outlined in the plan. If parents are unable to communicate amicably with each other, they might consider using a co-parenting app to avoid any further conflict.

7. Education

A parenting plan should include a provision for the educational decisions that must be made. This section should address whether both parents will attend school activities and conferences, how educational records will be accessed, and the types of extracurricular activities the child will participate in.

8. Medical Care

If parents share legal custody, they will both have a say in how issues are determined when it comes to the child’s medical care. A parenting plan should specifically address vaccines, emergency treatment, mental health matters, and other medical issues. Parents should also specify who will bear the costs for out-of-pocket medical expenses.

9. Expenses

Parents should address how child-related expenses will be covered in their parenting plan — and whether one parent will be receiving child support payments. Will costs be split between co-parents, or will the parent who has custody be responsible for costs incurred during their parenting time? Other things to consider include the costs of healthcare, clothing, food, education, and extracurricular activities.

10. No Disparaging Remarks

Not all co-parents are amicable. When parents are unable to get along or cannot communicate in a healthy manner, a provision in the plan should be included that prohibits parents from making disparaging remarks about each other to the child. While divorce is hard enough for a child, they should never be made to feel like they are a messenger between their parents or like they need to take sides.

Contact an Experienced Michigan Divorce and Family Law Attorney

If you are divorcing, nothing is as important as your children — and it’s important to have a plan in place that meets their best interests. Located in Sterling Heights, The Law Offices of Kevin R. Lynch P.L.C. provides a wide array of family law services to Michigan residents, including creating, negotiating, and enforcing parenting plans. You can set up a free consultation by calling 586-336-1088 or contacting us online. We assist clients throughout Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties.