A parenting plan is actually a type of contract between two parents who no longer function as a unit. Any good contract tries to anticipate problems or conflicts and set out terms that dictate how any given situation should be handled.
With that in mind, here are some common custody clauses that should be in every parenting plan:
- Joint decision-making power: If you don’t want your ex to make all the decisions about your child’s education, religious instruction or medical care, you need to stipulate that any big changes have to be considered together.
- Extracurricular activities: What happens if your child wants to join their school’s marching band, and that would interfere drastically with your parenting time? A clause that requires both parents to sign off on any extracurricular activities before the child joins can help prevent that problem.
- Child care: Who will take care of your child when the parent they’re living with isn’t available? Do you want the right of first refusal if your ex has to be out of town during their parenting time? Do babysitters need to be approved by both parents? This is important to negotiate now, before it becomes an issue.
- Travel away from the area: If your ex goes on vacation with the kids during their parenting time, how much information should they be required to share with you about their plans? What contact do you want while the kids are out of town?
- Electronic communication: This is particularly important with older children. You don’t want your daily conversations with your teen cut off because your ex took away their phone.
Like a contract, your parenting plan is legally enforceable, so make sure that you think carefully about every part of it. (After all, you’re bound by the agreement just as much as your ex, so you want the agreement to be something that you can both manage to follow.) An experienced family law attorney can help you think practically about the plan and guide you.