12 THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN MAKING A PARENTING PLAN
WHAT EXACTLY IS A PARENTING PLAN?
A parenting plan is an arrangement that you and the other individual (or people) with parental responsibility make while you live apart. You are not required to have a parenting plan in place, but many separated parents find it beneficial to have some arrangement to fall back on if problems occur and to match their hopes for their children.
WHAT SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN A PARENTING PLAN
1. PRINCIPLES GENERAL
It’s a good idea to begin with some broad concepts on how you want to raise your children while living apart.
This will address topics such as how you both see each parent’s role in the children’s upbringing, whatever the children’s abilities are, and what the expectations are there for the future parenting arrangements, and also the children’s physical and emotional well-being.
2. WHERE AND Where WILL THE CHILDREN STAY? WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF YOU NEED TO CHANGE THE SCHEDULE.
You should then fill in the blanks for where the children will sleep each night of the week. Weeks one and two can be repeated in the following two weeks, or you may agree to something different. Many people make different plans for school vacations.
You are free to change the schedule as you see fit. It can also include days when the children spend time with one parent but sleep with the other, as well as time spent on the phone or in person.
It is uncommon for two schedules to be identical. Also, keep in mind that the schedule will change as the children get older and their activities, education, and lives change. It is beneficial to put things in place and see how it works, with the expectation that it will need to be changed over time.
3. WHAT WILL HAPPEN DURING SCHOOL HOLIDAYS AND AT THE END OF THE SCHOOL YEAR?
Many parents settle to a different timetable for school vacations. This is often done to encourage one parent to make up for time lost during the school year, when it might be more difficult to arrange time with the children or provide child care. You should talk about what will happen during the following periods: • three half-terms
• Easter and Christmas Vacations
• Summer Vacations
Unless your children are privately educated, you will usually have 13 weeks of school vacation to plan for.
4. COMMUNICATION IS THE FOURTH KEY
It is beneficial to explore how you can interact with the children in the future. You may want to arrange a weekly, quarterly, or even annual chat about the children, where you meet for coffee or schedule a phone call and just talk about the children and their needs.
If communication is challenging, having a communication book that covers what homework they need to do, what medications they might be taking, and any other concerns concerning the children may be extremely beneficial. Maintain civility in the book so the children can read what is written in it.
5. SPECIAL DAYS OF THE YEAR, INCLUDING CHRISTMAS AND OTHER RELIGIOUS DAYS, FATHER’S DAY AND MOTHER’S DAY, BIRTHDAYS, AND SO ON.
When you’ve agreed on the plans for the school year and holidays, you’ll need to consider if there are any modifications for special days during the year. Mother’s and Father’s Day are also prioritised in the schedule for the relevant parent. However, you may wish to accommodate your own birthdays as well as the birthdays of your stepbrothers and sisters.
Christmas and New Year’s can be tense times when it comes to deciding on parental arrangements. Rely about what the children want and what would work best for the whole family.
6. EXPENSES & COSTS
This will include any statutory child care fees as well as how you want to manage one-time costs including school trips and uniforms. Payments for cell phones, subscriptions, and after-school events may also be included.
It’s very possible that you both have parental responsibilities. As a result, you should both have a say in which schools your children attend. However, the schedule should include what will happen at parental input appointments, school activities, and other critical school matters. The school will normally gladly add both parents’ email addresses for contact with parents.
8. HEALTH AND MEDICINE
Since you are both likely to have parental responsibilities, you will both need to have a say in any emergency situation and be contacted as soon as possible if your child is admitted to the hospital. However, you can also communicate on things like whether a child has been given Calpol before they hand over.
9. GRANDPARENTS AND LARGER FAMILY
Grandparents have their own rights to see their grandchildren, but they should be included in the scheme, along with other family members, to ensure the children retain communication with their extended family.
10. NEW PARTNERS
This is still a controversial subject to debate. However, with many good arrangements actually happening whenever a new partner becomes added, it is worth discussing now, even though it is unlikely to be a problem for a while.
The main issues to address are how you can interact as parents to ensure that the introduction of every new partner causes the least amount of emotional trauma to the children. It should not be introduced to the children abruptly, but when done correctly, it can have a significant effect on their well-being.
11. OVERSEAS HOLIDAYS & PASSPORTS
If you want to take the children overseas, you must obtain approval from someone with parental responsibility. This is so regardless of how long you want to stay abroad. In certain situations, you will have a Child Arrangements Order stating that the child is exclusively residing with you. In such cases, you do not require permission to take a child abroad for a period of 28 days or less.
It’s a good idea to decide ahead of time what plans you’ll make if you want to take the kids abroad, and to agree to share information about tickets, hotels, and so on.
You can also agree on how passports will be distributed, who will keep them, and who will pay for their upkeep. You will also want to clarify whether the children can have any interaction with the other parent when they are abroad.
You do not need permission from anyone else with parental responsibility for holidays in England and Wales, but be cautious if you are considering bringing the child to Scotland, Northern Ireland, or The Channel Islands, as these are under a separate legal authority than England and Wales.
If in doubt, seek legal counsel; however, it is always preferable to work these issues out in your parenting plan before they become a problem.
12. RELIGION / DISPUTES / OTHER SPECIFIC ARRANGEMENTS
You may have unique religious arrangements that you want the children to observe at both homes, or you may settle on a unified form of disciplining. After all, it is extremely difficult to exert leverage over how the other party raises the children once you are divorced.
You may disagree on several parenting strategies – but if there is anything on which you both agree, it should be included in your strategy. Some parents accept that they would not encourage their children to spend more than three hours on computers, or that they must be in bed by 9 p.m. on school nights, and so on. It may be beneficial to plan ahead of time how you can settle any potential conflicts, such as agreeing to use family mediation.
It may be beneficial to promise not to say something disparaging about the other parent in front of the child – after all, you are disparaging someone the children love.
Contact us to know more about mediation.