What Is A Parenting Plan?

“Parenting Plan” is just what it implies. “Parenting Plans” can range from situations where one parent exercises virtual control over all issues involving the children (typically called “sole custody”) to situations where the parents are still serving as co-parents despite the divorce. The particular parenting arrangements that work best for you, your spouse, and your children must be carefully worked out. No two plans are going to be the same. Under one plan, only one parent may have final authority over the children. The other parent can advise, but may have no legal right to make decisions regarding the children’s upbringing. That Parenting Plan would give broad control of the children’s lives to only one parent. Examples of areas where that parent’s decision-making authority might be exercised are health care, education, and religion. By contrast, the other parent’s authority may be limited to other areas specified in the decree. Recently, more people are turning to joint or shared parenting as a substitute for the old notions of “sole custody.” Shared parenting means that parents continue to have responsibility for making decisions regarding the children. Joint parenting may also imply that each parent will have a significant amount of time with the children. The most common form of shared parenting is one by which the children reside primarily with one parent while the other parent retains liberal access rights and legal authority to share joint responsibility for all major decisions regarding the well-being of the children.

Parents can agree to share time with the children equally, for example, 4 days with one parent, then 4 days with the other on an alternating basis. The periods could be weekly or monthly. In rare instances, parents have even established a home for the children where the parents live on an alternating basis.

Shared parenting is no easy task. To work, parents must be willing to focus their attention on the children’s needs;

  • Accept having frequent contact with each other and a shared expectation of frequent readjustments and changes;
  • Be able to put set aside their own conflicts out of a shared concern for their children;
  • Sincerely want active involvement in their children’s lives, not just the “appearance” of
  • involvement;

  • Live in reasonable proximity of each other, particularly if a public school district is involved. The geographic proximity has more flexibility if the children attend a private school to which they are transported;
  • Have some flexibility in their personal schedules. Without flexibility, shared parenting can become difficult;
  • Have reasonably similar aspirations and goals for the children;
  • Have reasonably similar attitudes toward child-rearing; and
  • Have adequate financial resources. Providing “shared” or “equal” housing arrangements can be more expensive.
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