How to Create a Co-Parenting Plan

How to Create a Co-Parenting Plan

One of the most difficult parts of divorce or separation is how to manage time with children and different households. A Parenting Plan can help you and your ex head off potential conflicts and make things as smooth and stress free as possible for your children. It requires talking and negotiation up front but your kids will benefit and so will you. You may not find total agreement on all of these issues but the discussion will be worth the time and effort. 

What to Consider When Making a Parenting Plan

Living Arrangements and Parenting Schedules

  • Residential arrangements (Will the child live mainly in one residence or will the child move between two homes?)
  • Geographical considerations (Will the parents live within a certain distance of each other?)
  • Movement of your child between homes (What are the details about drop-off and pick-up? Consider specifying times, days, location, and person responsible for pick up and drop off)
    • Moving away (What if one parent proposes to move? What if one parent proposes to move with the child? How much notice should be given e.g. 30, 45, 60 days? How will notice be given e.g. e-mail, letter? Will consent of the other parent be required when the move of a child is proposed? How will parenting arrangements be affected?)
    • Childcare and babysitting arrangements
    • Communication with child while with the other parent (Will communication be through phone, e-mail, pictures, Skype?)
    • Changes to the parenting schedule (Discuss circumstances that might require schedule changes: illness, lateness, social events, special occasions, unforeseen events. How will schedule changes be managed? How much notice of the change is required? Will there be make-up time?)
    • Child’s belongings (Will belongings move between homes with your child? Will your child have two sets of some items? Who will purchase which items for your child?)
    • Child’s social life (How will the child spend time with friends? Who will take the child to social events such as birthday parties or sleepovers? Who will buy gifts for the child to give?)
    • Vacation, holidays and special days: Arrangements for holidays (Consider school breaks, summer vacation, school holidays, statutory holidays, religious holidays. Will the child spend certain holidays with one parent every year? Will holidays alternate between households?) Arrangements for other significant days (Consider birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and other events such as weddings, graduations, funerals, etc.)
    • Health care:
      • Decisions about medical or dental care (How will decisions be made about dental or medical treatment? What about vaccinations or other preventative treatments?)
      • Emergency medical treatment (How will parents notify each other?)
      • Arrangements for medical or dental check-ups (Who will take the child to doctor or dentist’s appointments?)
      • Care of child if child is ill (Who will take time off work?)
      • Health card arrangements (Who will hold the child’s health card? Will the card move between homes with the child?)
      • Access to medical records (How will medical information be accessed or shared?)
      • Medical insurance arrangements (Will there be medical insurance for the child? Who will obtain the insurance? Who will submit claims for insurance? Who will pay any extra costs?)
      • Arrangements for any special needs of your child (Consider orthodontic treatment, counseling, physiotherapy, speech therapy, diet, glasses, prescription drugs.)
      • Education
  • Decisions about any choice or change in school, school program, special educational needs, tutoring etc. (How will these decisions be made?)
  • School records (How will this information be accessed or shared?)
  • Attendance at parent-teacher conferences and school events (Who will attend?)
  • School trips (Consider signing of permission forms, payment for trips, parent attendance)
  • School absences (Under what circumstances will your child be removed from school? By whom?)
  • Extra-curricular activities
    • Extra-curricular activities (How many? What type?)
    • Schedule of activities for children (Consider whether one parent can schedule activities during the child’s time with the other parent. Who will pay? Who will transport your child to and from activities?)
  • Religion

    • Religious upbringing and activities (How will these decisions be made?)
  • Culture

    • Cultural events, education and activities (How will these decisions be made?)
    • Language instruction
  • Grandparents and Extended Family

    • Visits (How often and when will visits with extended family take place? Who will be in attendance?)
    • Communication (How and when will children communicate with their extended family?
  • Travel

    • Notice of travelling with the child (Will notice of travel be given to the other parent? Should notice be given for all travel or just travel that is out of province? What type of information is to be shared? Consider flight information as well as contact information for children during time away in case of emergency.)
    • Written consent for child to travel out of the country may be required (Consider: voyage.gc.ca/preparation_information/consent-letter_lettre-consentement-eng;
    • Child’s passport (Who will keep the child’s passport? Will each parent have a copy of the passport number?)
  • Communication Between Parents

    • Type of information to be communicated (Consider medical information, school information, change of address, telephone numbers, travel plans)
    • Method of communication (Consider e-mail, communication notebook, text-message, telephone, internet tools)
    • Frequency of communication
    • Emergency communication
  • Making Changes to Parenting Plan

    • Process for making changes to the parenting schedule or other parts of the parenting plan (Consider a process for reviewing arrangements as circumstances of you and your child change.)
  • Solving Problems

    • Method for resolving disagreements over the parenting plan (Consider the use of counsellor, therapist, mediator, or lawyer)
    • Payment of costs (Who will pay for these services?)
  • Other Parenting Issues

    • These issues may not apply to every family situation and some will depend on the age of your child. You may choose to discuss these issues on an ongoing basis rather than dealing with them in the parenting plan.
    • Basic safety requirements, including supervision (Consider the use of helmets, car seats, snowmobiles, a car, drugs or alcohol, etc., and the age when child can stay home alone)
    • Discipline and lifestyle expectations (Consider rules on bedtimes, homework, allowance, piercing, tattoos, dating, part-time employment, etc.)
    • Child’s use of the computer, including social networking, or other electronic devices such as cellular phones, e-tablets, or gaming systems (Consider what type of rules around supervision or access are needed)
    • Child’s use of the phone
    • Diet and nutrition
    • Gifts (Should gifts to the child be coordinated? Who will purchase gifts for the child to give to others?)
    • Photographs (Can the child’s photo be posted on a parent’s social networking site?)
    • Family pets (Where is the pet going to live? Can the pet move between homes with the child?)
    • Involvement of new partners and family (Consider when to introduce new partner or sibling to child.)

Download a copy of this parenting plan:

What to Consider When Making a Parenting Plan