Shot of a young couple reviewing their finances while using their laptop - parenting plan concept.

If you are divorcing or separating from your child’s other parent, one of the most important things you will have to figure out is how to co-parent together during and after the change in your relationship status. Most likely, you will no longer be sharing a household, and spending time with your child or children and communicating about their needs will become a bit more challenging. In this blog post, we will discuss what is a parenting plan and what to put in it, including some provisions you might not have considered.

What is a parenting plan? It’s a written document that outlines how you and your co-parent will spend time with, care for, and make decisions about your children after your divorce or separation. The parenting plan is an agreement between you and your co-parent, but after the court signs off on it, it becomes a binding court order. Accordingly, it is important to make sure that the plan is both specific enough to provide clear guidance and prevent disputes, and flexible enough to work in real life.

The items below are not, of course, the only things to include in your parenting plan. It is practically a foregone conclusion that your plan will specify how parents are sharing legal custody (how to make important decisions) and physical custody (the schedule for spending time with the children). The provisions below are things other parents tell us they wish they had put in their plans.


There’s no way around it: you are almost certainly going to have to communicate with your child’s other parent. It may be helpful to specify how much or how little you want to communicate with the other parent, and what methods of communication you will and will not use. If you don’t want the other parent blowing up your phone ten times a day, or you want your communications documented, you may want to agree to use a co-parenting app like Our Family Wizard for all but the most urgent communications.

Holidays and Vacations

A regular parenting time schedule is one thing. But birthdays, holidays, vacations, and other special occasions are when memories are made. How you agree to divide these special days may depend on your family traditions. For instance, it may not make sense for parents to alternate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with the kids if Mom’s family always has a big Christmas Eve dinner and Dad’s has a traditional Christmas day brunch. Holiday and vacation schedules are not just about equity for parents, but about allowing children to participate more fully in the life of their extended families. Some families find it important to keep past traditions, while others choose to start new ones. It all depends on what works best for your children.

Introducing New Partners

At some point, it is likely that one or both parents will become romantically involved with new partners. It’s helpful to agree in advance on when a new partner will be introduced to the children (such as after the relationship has gone on for a certain time period, or after it becomes exclusive). A frequent point of contention among parents is a new partner sleeping over at a parent’s home while the child is there. Agreeing beforehand on what is, and is not, acceptable, can save heated arguments in court later.

Extracurricular Activities

Extracurriculars can help kids discover new interests and abilities, but they can also be costly. Discuss what will happen if a child wants to continue in an activity the other parent doesn’t wish to support, or if one parent wants the child involved in an activity that the other doesn’t. Who has final decision-making authority? Who will transport the child to and from activities? Who will pay for which activities? What happens if an activity overlaps onto both parent’s time with the child?


Both parents have their scheduled time with the child, but what happens when one parent needs childcare during their scheduled time with the child? Does the other parent have a “right of first refusal” to provide care? Is it acceptable to leave the child with a parent’s extended family or new partner? It can be helpful for parents to agree in advance who is, and is not, an acceptable childcare provider.

Technology and Screen Time

Parents have their own rules in their own homes, but it’s often good to try and be consistent about some things between households. Tech is one of those things. It can be confusing and frustrating for a child if one parent allows unlimited screen time with no restrictions on content, and the other parent allows one hour of PBS per day. Similarly, it can be an issue if one parent allows a child to have a smartphone or unlimited internet access, and the other objects. Mediation can help parents reach a happy medium on technology and other sensitive issues.

Children’s Belongings

People keep their possessions at home. But what happens when a child has two homes? You may want to specify where certain of a child’s possessions will “live.” Will they travel with the child? Will there be one of each item at each parent’s home? Will clothing and other possessions remain at the home of the parent who purchased them? What happens if a child needs an item that is at one parent’s home when they are staying with the other parent?


When parents have joint legal custody, they generally cooperate in making medical decisions for their child. Some vaccinations are required by schools, but others, like those for COVID and human papillomavirus (HPV), are not. What happens if parents disagree about whether a child should get a certain vaccine? How do parents plan to resolve any disputes regarding this issue? Is there an age at which parents are comfortable letting an older child make the decision?

College Expenses

Child support usually ends before a child goes to college, but it is often important to parents that their child pursue higher education. It’s a good idea for parents to put in a parenting plan how they will help their child financially with tuition, room and board, books, travel, and other college expenses.

Negotiating Future Changes to the Parenting Plan

Life is long, and both children’s needs and parents’ situations change. If your children are young when you make a parenting plan, it’s a virtual certainty that at some point, you will need to modify it. How will you reach an agreement when the time comes? Many parents place a provision in their parenting plan that if they cannot reach an agreement about a change in child custody or other modification on their own, they will mediate the issue before asking a court to resolve it.

These ten provisions are only some of the many issues you and your co-parent may need to consider when making a parenting plan. Every family is unique, and you may want to include other provisions in your own parenting plan.

To learn more about what to include in a parenting plan or to see some examples, contact Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield to schedule a consultation.

Categories: Divorce