Negotiating a Parenting Plan? Here’s What to Consider

When you’re negotiating a parenting plan, there are some things you don’t realize you may need to include that go beyond your custody schedule. 

When you’re getting a divorce

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when you’re getting a divorce is thinking you and your soon-to-be ex-partner will work things out yourselves “when the time comes.” 

You go with the usual parenting plan verbiage the lawyer gives you, and you fail to put in the stuff above and beyond the standard template. 

Even if you’re experiencing a mutual divorce and appear to be getting along, it’s a good idea to put some contingencies into your parenting plan when you’re drafting the parenting plan.

Related: How to Talk to Your Children About Splitting Up

Years down the road, feelings, and circumstances will change, and even if you don’t follow what’s in the parenting plan at the time of your divorce, you can always have it as a backup plan. 

If you have a good lawyer, they will suggest things. But, if you’re trying to do it yourself, you won’t even realize some issues can come up years later.

What to think about on your parenting plan

I surveyed single moms in my community and asked them, “What is one thing you wish you would have put in your parenting plan but didn’t know any better at the time?”

These are things to think through that go beyond your custody schedule, which should already be included, even if it’s only outlining “parent A” and “parent B.” 

Related: How to heal after a divorce

Think through your parenting plan and ask yourself if you know the answers to these questions. If not, discuss them now before your parenting plan is finalized. See if you need to add these things or if it brings up any additional points. 

thoughts of single parents who’ve been in your shoes

  • Define who is responsible for the children on days that kids are sick and stay home from school. 
  • Exact times for drop off and pick up on school days and location of dropoff and pickup. 
  • Vacations. Will, each parent, get a certain amount of time each year, and if so, will it override the current custody schedule? Can the parent take the vacation during a holiday? 
  • If a parent changes their work schedule, will it change the current custody schedule? How to handle work schedule changes overall since these can happen beyond a parent’s control often and can affect the custody schedule. 
  • Who will be responsible for taking the children to doctor appointments and during which parenting time? 
  • Communication: if you and your ex have issues communicating, then you may want to add the method of communication. Either by email or use a parenting app so you can save the messages. 
  • How will miscellaneous expenses be handled? Such as braces, field trips, car insurance, sports expenses? 
  • If a child wants to play a sport, will both parents agree to take the child to practice? Most likely, the practices and games will fall on both parent’s time. Who will decide which sports and activities the child will be involved in?
  • Each of you has to have their own car seats for the children. You don’t want to be taking car seats in and out of each other’s cars.
  • Plenty of clothing at each house for the children, so they don’t need to pack an overnight bag. 
  • Right of first refusal – You can list the other parent first before calling a babysitter or take it another step further and insist grandparents are asked before a babysitter. 
  • When and how to introduce significant others to the children. 
  • Is there an agreed-upon 3rd party who can step in and be a tiebreaker to help make decisions if the two of you don’t agree? 

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Negotiating a Parenting Plan? Here\'s What to Consider