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When parents of a child split up or decide to live apart, child-rearing can get a little complicated.

Indeed, there may be disagreements surrounding where the child spends most of their time or what kind of after-school activities they should participate in. Fortunately, there are ways of resolving such conflicts. Perhaps the most effective is a document known as a parenting plan.

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What is a co-parenting plan?

A parenting plan is a set of agreements designed to make co-parenting as clear and conflict-free as possible. Sometimes, a parenting plan will be mandated by a family court or, if the parents are on good terms, will take the form of an informal document.

The parenting plan should include some of the following considerations.

Custody and visitation arrangements

The first and most obvious decision is who the child will live with and how often they spend time with the other parent. You may decide that joint custody is the best option, in which case you will need to decide which days each parent will look after the child. This may depend on practical decisions such as which parent lives closer to the child’s school or whether a parent has specific work commitments.

If you have a baby, it is a good idea to arrange a schedule that allows both parents to care for the baby’s needs. As well, giving one parent a much-needed break is vital for bonding.

Be prepared to adapt the schedule to accommodate special occasions

Sometimes, the schedule will need to be adapted to accommodate special occasions such as Mother’s Day or when one parent has an important job interview. If you live close to each other, this should be fairly simple. If you live far apart, however, you may need to establish a plan of action in the parenting plan to accommodate one-off occasions.

If you want to take your child on vacation, discuss your plans with the other parent well in advance to avoid potential scheduling conflicts.

Draw up plans for who the child can spend time with

Sometimes, your co-parent may have friends or family members you don’t trust. Make sure to express your concern when drawing up the plan and ensure your child will never be left alone with them.

Decide what extracurricular activities your child can participate in

Most schools offer a wide array of extracurricular activities for your child to get involved in. While the child should be the first to express which activities they are interested in, both parents should be able to say whether they are happy with the child participating in the activity.

If you would rather your child did not participate in a particularly rough or dangerous sport, for example, note this in the parenting plan. Transport logistics may also be important when deciding which activities are viable.

Make a plan for special events

Establish which parent will attend special events such as parent-teacher conferences well in advance. If you decide to go together, make sure that you maintain a high level of civility throughout. If only one of you attends, ensure that the attendee takes down useful notes to report to the other parent. This article may be useful if you need a little guidance about what to expect at a parent-teacher conference.

Determine your primary modes of communication

Communicating important information is key when it comes to successful co-parenting. This could include foods your child has started to reject, any punishments you have recently established, and any awards the child has won.

If you would rather not communicate with your co-parent face-to-face or over the phone, you may decide that texts or emails should be the primary modes of communication. If you are on friendlier terms, you may wish to video call them.

Try to ensure that the child has a consistent routine

Ensuring your child sticks to a consistent routine is important for their well-being and development. In this way, you and your co-parent should decide on specific times for meals, homework sessions, bedtime, and anything else incorporated into the daily schedule.

Come up with a financial support arrangement

This can be an area of serious contention, but you must develop a financial support arrangement that considers co-parents’ respective incomes and your child’s needs. Typically, the non-custodial parent will pay a certain amount to the other parent each month to contribute towards their child’s expenses.

You will also need to decide when these financial contributions should end. If your child is likely to attend college, for example, you may want to consider college-related expenses. Indeed, children often remain very expensive even after they have officially become adults!