If you and your minor child’s other parent are no longer a couple, the state is likely going to require you to put a parenting plan into place as part of your broader child custody order. A parenting plan – also often called a parenting time arrangement – will help you and your child’s other parent to set boundaries and expectations for your co-parenting relationship.
Parenting plans are legally-enforceable orders. This means that if you or your child’s other parent fail to follow the terms of your parenting plan, you could end up back in court. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that your parenting arrangement is workable for you, manageable for everyone and will serve your child’s best interests before you commit to a specific commitment.
Be flexible yet predictable
The best way to ensure that your parenting plan is workable moving forward is to ensure that each expectation is predictable yet flexible. You, your co-parent, and your child all need to know what to expect generally from your arrangement so that you can plan. But, because life is unpredictable, some flexibility needs to be built into the terms of your plan.
For example, if your plan says that you’re responsible for personally driving your child to school each day, you could get into legal trouble if you let another family member drive them to school when you’re sick. If your plan says that you’re responsible for ensuring that your child has transportation to and from school, you’ll be able to honor this responsibility in any number of ways.
You’ll also want to keep in mind that if you and your co-parent can’t come to an agreement outside of court, a judge will order you both to honor the terms of whatever arrangement they think is best. Understanding how to create a workable parenting plan without a judge’s intervention will help to ensure that you and your co-parent get to control your new family life instead of having the state tell you what to do.