A parenting plan is a written document describing how your children will be raised and how parenting and decision-making will work after you and your partner separate.
A clear and detailed parenting plan will minimize your former partner’s ability to find loopholes to exploit to exercise power and control over you and the children. This will help to keep you and your children safer.
Family courts use parenting plans in accordance with the best interests of the children to help determine the most suitable parenting arrangements. While preparing and presenting a parenting plan is not required by law, including one that is clear, detailed, and thorough is beneficial evidence.
Tips on completing your parenting plan
A parenting plan needs to be:
- Clear, concise, and written in plain language: The judge will respond positively if yours gets to the point and is easy to read. Use a clean, easy-to-read font, and consider using headings to separate the sections that deal with different issues/considerations
- Specific and detailed: You don’t want to leave room for confusion or loopholes, especially if the other parent was/is abusive in any way
- Child-focused: Demonstrate that your primary goal is the best interests of your child
- Honest and realistic: Don’t try to impress the judge by making big promises or saying that you’re happy to be in constant communication with your ex-partner and don’t think it will be difficult to cooperate with each other if that isn’t truly how you feel
- Adaptable: Arrangements may change as children age, interests, and activities change or as parents’ circumstances change.
- Must follow conditions: If the plan is being written as a term of a court order or mediated agreement, it must follow any conditions the order or agreement sets out
- Reviewed by a lawyer if possible
Questions to cover in your plan
- How will you and the other parent communicate?
- Was there family violence?
- What parenting time arrangements do you recommend?
- What are the children’s relationships with other family/community members?
- What is the basic schedule?
- What will happen during vacation time?
- How will special occasions be arranged?
- What about the children’s schooling?
- When, where, how, and who is responsible for the exchange of children?
- Is anyone other than parents authorized to pick up or drop off the children?
- What about their extracurricular activities?
- What about their religion, culture, language, and Indigeneity?
- What about the children’s health and medical care?
- What will happen if one parent needs to relocate?
- Might there be special considerations related to a parent’s occupation?
- What will happen if one parent has a new partner?
- Are there any other issues you may want to include?
- Can parents travel with children, and what are the terms and conditions?
- Is the child allowed to call the parent they are not with? Under what circumstances?
- If a parent’s time with the children does not happen, does it get made up? How?
- Do the children’s belongings travel with them, or does each parent have everything the children need?
- How are the children’s social lives arranged?
Where to get more information
The Luke’s Place toolkit for women, “The Law and Parenting Arrangements after Separation,” provides more details on how to write your parenting plan and other topics related to post-separation parenting.