Creating a Parenting Plan That Benefits Parents and Children

When going through a divorce or legal separation where children are involved, it is important to understand how the courts will distribute both time and responsibility between parents when it comes to their children’s care. In Oregon, courts do this by instituting a “Parenting Plan” to determine these issues. So, what is a parenting plan?

It is a written document, filed with the court, that outlines how parental responsibilities and parenting time regarding their children will be shared. While it is only required to include the minimum amount of parenting time and access a noncustodial parent is entitled to have, it can also include a much wider range of important issues concerning custody, parenting time, decision-making responsibility, information sharing, relocation of parents, transportation, telephone access and methods for resolving disputes.

A parenting plan can be written up by the parents themselves, with the help of a mediator and/or attorney, or the courts can put one in place if the parents refuse to work together. Whatever the case may be, this document will become the cornerstone for how ex-spouses will co-parent their children. While it may seem difficult to work together with your spouse, it is in everyone’s best interest to do so. Having to go in front of a judge and fight for a parenting plan is time consuming, expensive, and in many cases, the end result isn’t one that is ideal for either party.

Not that this means creating a parenting plan is necessarily going to be easy. Parenting plans are typically made during a divorce or separation, which is already a very difficult time, with many changes happening in you and your children’s lives. While it may seem overwhelming at the time, it is still important to make sure to focus on making the parenting plan a priority.

Understanding that a parenting plan is required, a person may ask what should be included in it? While brevity is the soul of wit, it is not generally a great way to create plan that is sufficiently complete, clear, understandable and precise enough to endure the arguments, stress, emotions and other potential hazards that can derail even the best of intentions. With that, here are some items that should go into making a well-made parenting plan:

Acknowledgment That the Parents Remain the Parents

This may seem self-evident, but an acknowledgement that both parents have the right and the responsibility to act in the best interest of the children is not always front and center as a consideration when couples start to work on a parenting plan. However, it is of great importance that, when putting together a parenting plan, both parents should negotiate with the intention of making a plan that ensures the children’s optimal development, provides continuity, stability and predictability and encourages frequent and continued contact with each parent.

Determination How Major and Day-To-Day Parenting Decisions Will Be Made

Major Decisions include such things as decisions about the children’s residence, education, non-emergency health care, and religious training. Parents can agree to share in the responsibility for making major decisions about the children. This arrangement is known by the courts as “Joint Legal Custody”. Alternatively, the parents can agree that one of them will be responsible for making the major decisions about the children. This arrangement is known by the courts as “Sole Legal Custody”.

Day-to-Day Decisions are generally treated where each parent will make the day-to-day decisions regarding care and control of the children during the time they are caring for the children. This also includes any emergency decisions affecting the health or safety of the children.

Schedule Of When Each Parent Will Spend Time with The Children and Be Responsible For Their Care

Parenting Time is when each parent will spend time with the children and be responsible for their care. It addresses the schedule of the child, where they will reside and how much time they will spend with each parent. It is important that the parenting plan should be easy to understand and follow. Whether you choose to adopt a parenting plan that allows you to see your children every week, every other day, or some other format, it should be clear and not open to individual interpretation. While it does not need to be so complex that it requires a calculator to figure it out, it does need to be complete enough to help ensure that the parents and the children will know what to expect with their day-to-day schedules for basic weekday and weekend schedules during the school year, summer schedules when the children are not in school, vacations, birthdays and holidays.