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10 things to include in your parenting plan

A parenting plan is an essential guide to raising your kids after divorce. When times get tough the parenting plan can keep your original intentions in mind. In the end a parenting plan is meant to be clear guidelines and expectations set to reflect the best interests of your children. A thorough plan can help minimize conflict which is hugely important to helping children cope with a changing family. Below are ten items that you and your attorney can include to create a well rounded parenting plan.

1. The big three

Big decisions will need to be made for your children down the road. You will need to decide upon education, non-emergency health care and religious upbringing. It is important to establish who will decide these items when they come up. You can either make decisions up to one parent or make them all joint decisions. Whatever you decide it will take a lot of stress off the situation if you can deal with them before they pop up.

2. Plan for disagreements

When big decisions are discussed you will need to plan for disagreements. This is especially true if you are choosing joint custody or joint decision making. Disagreements are completely normal and should be expected. Yelling matches are another thing. Figure out a plan for how you can resolve these disagreements when they come up.

3. Parenting time and visitation

Figuring out the parenting time and visitation schedule might be the hardest part of a parenting plan. You will need to figure out a solid plan that can last long term that everyone can agree upon. Write down the details such as pick up and drop off times. Do not forget about winter vacation, summer and holidays. Where will the kids go for Christmas and Thanksgiving? Consider how the schedule will have the best impact on your children and provide stability.

4. Think about living location

Whether the rent is being raised or you are offered a new position, there are a lot of reasons to move. If you or your ex-spouse need to move then consider if there will be rules. How far are you and your children willing to travel between homes? You can consider setting a maximum distance that parents can live apart from one another without a plan modification. If one parent does want to move then should they give notice to the other parent?

5. Contact and check-in times

It is easy to let your mind run wild while your children are away. If you haven't heard from them all day your imagination might start thinking up all the terrible things that could have happened. Ease some of those worrying thoughts with check-in requirements. Consider how often and at what time you would like your children to check-in while they are away. Write down the terms of contact while your kids are with their other parent and it will make it easier to be apart from them.

6. Childcare options

Childcare is a major decision for parents and will result in a big chunk of your paycheck. It is important that you can both agree upon the daycare of choice, especially if they are very young. You might want to choose a family member or local baby sitter as well.

7. Grandparents and family members

Consider who you would like your children to visit and how often. If your kids have a strong bond with their grandparents or other family members then you might even factor that into your parenting schedule. Are both parents ok with the children seeing everyone in the family? Maybe your ex's uncle who gets a little too tipsy during Christmas will be off limits for babysitting.

8. Traveling and vacations

Imagine that you want to take a short weekend trip to camp at Red Top Mountain State Park. Would the other parent be ok with you heading out for the weekend with the kids without telling them? Make sure to include notice of trips and vacations into the plan. How much of a notice will you require? If you will be taking a longer trip with a flight then consider if the other parent will want flight and emergency contact information.

9. House rules

If it were up to your kids they would eat ice cream bars for dinner, stay up until midnight playing video games and then sleep all weekend. If you consider consistent house rules to be important for both households then you can include them into your plan. You might suggest bed times, TV and video game rules, and homework expectations.

10. Extracurricular activities

Modern children are always busy with extracurricular activities. Kids are shifting days of the week between basketball karate while the parents try to juggle driving responsibilities. While taking care of extracurriculars may have been hard while you were married, trying to take care of them as a single parent will be more difficult. Establish who can take the kids to after school events and activities and who will be in charge of extracurricular choices in the future.

If you can create a well written and clear parenting plan then you will have a great shot at co-parenting with your ex after divorce. An attorney can help guide you through the process to ensure the best outcome. 

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