If you’re writing a parenting plan, now is an ideal time to comprehensively address issues affecting your child’s future.
Imagining hypothetical scenarios, coming up with solutions, and proposing them to the other parent — all this takes effort. But, if you don’t submit a thorough plan to the court, you’re banking on your ability to resolve disagreements as they arise.
Here are ten parenting plan clauses you may not have thought of.
10 Things You Should Add to Your Parenting Plan
1. Contacting the other parent
If you’re worried about how frequently you and the other parent are likely to communicate, set expectations. State how often you’d like to be in contact (minimums or maximums), the issues about which you do or don’t want to consult (e.g., playdates), the communication methods you like or dislike (e.g., text messages or a co-parenting app), and how promptly you expect a response
Does your child have an activity — like robotics, horseback riding, piano lessons, or religious instruction — that you want them to continue? Decide who will transport them to and from the activity and who will pay. If you don’t wish to support one of your child’s activities, specify whether the child may continue it under the discretion and with the support of the other parent.
3. Storing the child’s belongings
A favorite blanket or stuffed animal might go back and forth with a small child. An older child has to have their school backpack. But what about large or expensive items, like ski gear or a drum set? Will you and the other parent shuttle these items back and forth? Will you buy a duplicate set so you never have to move them? Or will your child simply wait until they return to the parent who keeps them? Consider, also, your general expectations about items you buy. If you buy clothes for your child, do you expect the clothes to be kept at your house?
Will you and the other parent allow the same devices, use the same parental controls, and enforce the same limits on screen time? Sometimes one parent wants to give the child a new smartphone while the other parent wants to take away TV privileges. Plan ahead for whether you’ll make these decisions together or separately. Anticipate how your child’s homework needs will change as they get older and how they’ll want to communicate with friends.
Do you want your child to receive vaccines that doctors recommend for them? Write parenting plan provisions that state your beliefs and values.
Do you and the other parent expect to be informed of, and agree upon, any babysitters you may hire in the future? Or will you allow each other to choose your own babysitters during your own parenting time?
Can the “other grandparents” visit the child during your scheduled parenting time, or do you only want to interact and arrange visits with your own parents?
8. Preventing certain individuals from contact with your child
Unfortunately, sometimes a person in the child’s life presents a concern. Is there any person whose presence should be restricted or altogether banned?
Are you worried about specific safety issues in your households? For example, you may want the other parent to explicitly promise to lock up guns, store their liquor on a high shelf, or attend the swimming pool while kids are nearby. Though you may think the appropriate behavior is obvious, outlining your procedures can help later.
10. Naming a guardian
What will happen if neither parent can care for the child — for example, if you both die? If in the future, your child doesn’t have a parent, they’ll need a guardian. Although it’s hard to contemplate, try to imagine your preferred outcome for your child. Think of family members and close friends who have lifestyles and values you respect and admire. Pick someone who would pass a background check.
Add Parenting Plan Clauses to Support Your Child’s Wellbeing
After reviewing these suggestions, you may have your own ideas for other provisions. Focus on what’s important to you and your child, and remember that expressing your values and setting expectations ahead of time with the other parent can reduce disappointment and stress later on.
Ben Coltrin, Co-founder, and President of Custody X Change
Ben was 21 years old when he quit his job to create the Custody X Change software, which helps parents track their custody schedules, create parenting plans, keep tabs on their child’s expenses, and more.
Nearly 20 years later, he loves sharing his child custody knowledge and improving the app because both positively impact real people’s lives.
Ben has an MBA from MIT Sloan and a computer science degree from California State University, Sacramento. He lives with his wife and four children in Riverton, Utah.