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What to Include in Your Parenting Plan

Parenting Plan Refresher: The Basics

In Tennessee, a parenting plan is used by divorcing or separating couples to outline how they will share legal and physical custody of their children. Consequently, parenting plans contain a lot of important information, including visitation schedules, how major decisions will be made, and even how parents will communicate with each other about the children.

Generally, parents will work together (along with their respective attorneys) to develop their parenting plan. However, in cases where parents struggle to communicate or agree, they may need to attend a court hearing and have the court determine their parenting plan for them. It is usually best if parents can work out their parenting plan outside of court, as this gives them greater autonomy over how they will share custody.

Common Clauses in Custody Agreements

When drafting their parenting plans, all parents will have to address the same major issues, like custody and holiday schedules, childcare, daycare and educational planning, how medical decisions will be made, etc. Parents tend to address these things in a few ways. For example, holidays are often split evenly and on a schedule that alternates yearly.

Many parents who share 50/50 custody utilize one of the following schedules:

  • 4-3
  • 2-2-3
  • 2-2-5-5
  • 3-4-4-3
  • Alternating full weeks

Regarding custody schedules, parents often include information regarding how the parents will exchange the children and where. In some cases, parents may meet in a designated location between their two homes, while other parents may arrange for one parent to drop the kids off at school while the other picks them up from school. In cases where parents don’t get along, they may arrange to meet with a neutral third party to do exchanges.

Another very common provision included in parenting plans is one related to travel. Travel guidelines often outline when, where, and for how long parents are allowed to take their children on vacation. They may also stipulate how much notice the other parent needs of a vacation and how parents will handle exchanging parenting time to accommodate vacations.

Tips for Developing Your Parenting Plan

When developing your parenting plan, it is a good idea to work closely with an experienced attorney, like ours at Casey, Simmons & Bryant, PLLC. Our custody lawyers have been helping clients create successful parenting plans for years, and we are prepared to use this experience to help you. We can also help you access the resources you need to help smooth the planning process, such as helping you with mediation services and even representing you in court should you need to have your parenting plan litigated.

Keep reading for some more helpful tips on creating a parenting plan that works for you.

Parenting Plan Checklist

Going through a divorce when you have children is incredibly difficult. It can be very overwhelming, and you are likely worried that you will forget something important when drafting your parenting plan. While you cannot possibly know what the future will hold, going in with a clear strategy and an idea of the types of things you want to include in your parenting plan can give you peace of mind that you are setting yourselves up for success as coparents.

Your parenting plan checklist should include:

  • Parenting time schedule (visitation schedule)
  • Holiday sharing
  • Plans for special dates (child birthdays, parent birthdays, important anniversaries, etc.)
  • Travel and vacation provisions
  • Rules regarding extended family and friends
  • Medical decisions
  • Educational decisions
  • Religious upbringing
  • How major expenses will be handled
  • The preferred method of communication between parents
  • Emergency protocols

Things I Wish I Had Included in My Parenting Plan

Even the most organized parents can sometimes overlook things when developing a parenting plan. Additionally, as time goes on, your situation may change some, and things that weren’t an issue when you divorced five years ago matter now. With this in mind, we’d like to review a few things parents often don’t include in their parenting plans but sometimes wish they had.

Often overlooked items to consider including in your parenting plan:

  • How parents can communicate with children while they are away on vacation
  • Whether parents are allowed to take children out of the state or out of the country
  • How parents will communicate with the children’s school
  • How parents will behave and/or share attendance at the child’s school and/or extracurricular functions
  • How unexpected schedule changes will be handled
  • How parents will resolve disputes
  • How parents will handle discipline
  • Who, outside of the parents, is allowed to pick children up from school if the designated parent is unavailable
  • Rules regarding parent and child relocation

It is also worth discussing how you will handle significant changes in your child’s life with your coparent. Often major changes necessitate revisiting your parenting plan. Parenting plans can be modified but under limited circumstances. Discussing with your coparent what you will do if/when your child’s needs change can help reduce future conflict.

If you live in Tennessee and need help developing a parenting plan, contact our law firm. We are here to help with everything from the initial drafting of parenting plans to modifications and enforcement.