A Parenting Plan is a signed and executed written agreement entered into between both the parents mentioning specific child care arrangements, after the parents decide to separate. A Parenting Plan should always be prepared while keeping in mind the best interests of the child.
In Family Law, The Family Law Act 1975 (“FLA”) encourages parents to mutually decide about the children’s care arrangements and deems taking parenting matters to Court as a last resort.
A Parenting Plan is considered to be valid as per Section 63C(1) of the FLA, if it fulfils the following conditions:
• there are no threats, duress or coercion involved in preparing the plan;
• the agreement is made between the parents of the child; and
• the agreement is in writing, is dated and is signed by both the parents.
Why should you opt for a Parenting Plan?
After divorce or separation, you cease to be a spouse or partner but you do not cease to remain a parent. Your responsibility towards the stable and healthy upbringing of the child remains undiminished and should be on the top of your priority list. You may not like to contact or stay in touch with your previous spouse or partner, but for the sake of your child, it is always advisable that you prepare a Parenting Plan.
10 tips to help you prepare a successful Parenting Plan
Co-parenting or shared parenting arrangements work better with the existence of a concrete Parenting Plan. While drafting a Parenting Plan, please keep the following in mind:
1. Clear demarcation of responsibilities
While preparing a Parenting Plan, discuss with your ex-partner about your share of responsibilities and rights regarding the care arrangements of the child. Have a planned schedule about the exact dates which the child is supposed to spend with each parent and also, who is supposed to take care of the child when and for what period. Apart from the visitation and custody arrangements, the Plan should also demarcate responsibilities about financial arrangements, educational responsibilities, discipline, household rules and decision making guidelines for the parents.
2. Spend time arrangements with the child on special days
On special days like birthdays or Christmas, one intends to spend more time with one’s child or family members. The Parenting Plan should conclusively provide for arrangements whereby both parties get to spend appropriate time with the child on special days to avoid any confusion or resentment.
3. Emergency contact details and mode for contact
A shared care arrangement of the child will require that you need to inform your ex-partner about any emergency. For such situations the Parenting Plan should provide for the modes of contacting and contact details of the parents involved in the matter.
4. Provision for Regular contact
A shared parenting arrangement should provide for regular contact being maintained between the child and the parents. So one might have the custody of the child for a certain period, but during this time, provision for regular contact should also be mentioned.
5. Respect and Flexibility
When parents agree upon a shared care arrangement, they should also agree about respecting each other’s concerns, wishes and aspirations for the child. Further, they should be flexible about adjusting each other’s needs.
One should always be open about accepting that the parenting styles of two different persons cannot be similar. The Parenting Plan should give freedom to the parties to practise their own parenting styles within a reasonable limit and the other parent should accept it.
7. Planning in advance
A Parenting Plan should always provide that the parties involved should make plans about the child or inform about their non-availability to take care of the child for a particular period, in advance so that the other party can adjust their schedules accordingly.
While entering a Parenting Plan, the parties should also resolve to conduct themselves respectfully in front of each other and the child and not to mention anything negative about the other party in front of the child.
9. Discussions about Disagreements
Disagreements may arise in a co-parenting arrangement but the Parenting Plan should provide methods for resolution of such disputes. Also, such disputes should never be discussed in front of the child.
10. No loyalty conflicts
The success of a Parenting Plan on a long term basis depends on the understanding between the parents and the supreme importance they should give to their children’s development and needs. A child should never be put in middle of any kind of loyalty conflict between the parents.