What Is a Parenting Plan?

Your parenting plan, also known as a custody agreement, is a document that outlines how you and the other parent will continue to care for and provide for your child after separating. It’s a personalized plan that is tailored to meet the specific needs of your family. Let’s explore what a comprehensive parenting plan should include.

Physical Custody and Schedule

Physical custody refers to where the child will reside. Your plan should clearly state whether you and the other parent will share joint physical custody or if one parent will have sole physical custody. In addition, it should include a detailed parenting time schedule that outlines when the child will be with each parent. This schedule should cover daily living arrangements, holidays, and vacation time.

How to Make Your Parenting Plan or Agreement

Legal Custody

Legal custody determines which parent has the authority to make decisions for the child. You must specify whether one parent will have sole legal custody or if both parents will share joint legal custody.

How to Make Your Parenting Plan or Agreement


To ensure a smooth schedule, your plan should address the logistics of exchanging the child between parents. This includes deciding on the location and method of exchanges. Additionally, you can establish guidelines for communication between parents regarding schedule changes and rescheduling parenting time.

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How to Make Your Parenting Plan or Agreement

Medical and Health Care

It is important to include provisions for medical and health care in your parenting plan. Specify who will be responsible for taking the child to health appointments, discuss the child’s vaccination schedule, and address procedures to be followed during a pandemic or other health-related emergencies.

How to Make Your Parenting Plan or Agreement

Education and Extracurricular Activities

Your plan should address education-related matters, such as the child’s school attendance, emergency contact information, and whether the child will participate in summer school. Additionally, you can include provisions regarding the child’s extracurricular activities and who may attend these activities.

How to Make Your Parenting Plan or Agreement

Child Care

Consider including provisions in your plan that stipulate when a child is old enough to stay home alone and how child care decisions will be made. You can also incorporate the “right of first option,” which ensures that if a parent is unavailable during scheduled parenting time, the other parent will be offered the opportunity to spend time with the child.

How to Make Your Parenting Plan or Agreement

Parenting Guidelines

Parenting guidelines encompass rules and expectations regarding discipline, diet, living conditions, screen usage, and more. For instance, you could establish a rule that requires parents to install a latched gate at the top of any accessible staircase until the child reaches a certain age.

How to Make Your Parenting Plan or Agreement

Parent Communication

Include provisions in your plan that outline the methods of communication between parents and establish response timeframes. Consider setting minimum or maximum frequency for communication. It’s also beneficial to require parents to keep each other informed of their current contact information.

How to Make Your Parenting Plan or Agreement

Child and Parent Relationships

Your plan must prioritize maintaining positive relationships between the child and both parents. This can involve specifying rules for telephone and video calls, as well as discouraging negative comments about each other in the presence of the child. It is important to ensure that the child is not used as a messenger between parents.

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How to Make Your Parenting Plan or Agreement

Traveling and Moving with the Child

Travel and relocation provisions in your plan can include restrictions on where the child can be taken and the requirement to provide an itinerary when traveling with the child. For moves, you can stipulate that a parent cannot move the child out of a specific area without providing advance notice.

How to Make Your Parenting Plan or Agreement

Money and Child Support

Financial matters should be addressed in your plan, covering topics such as claiming the child as a dependent for taxes and reimbursing each other for expenses related to the child’s well-being. Consideration should also be given to government benefits, lawyer fees, and the child’s finances. However, note that child support arrangements must comply with strict rules established by U.S. courts.

How to Make Your Parenting Plan or Agreement

Disagreements and Revising the Plan

Include information in your plan about how you and the other parent will handle disagreements and make revisions as needed. Establish a process for reviewing the plan and propose methods for resolving any disputes that may arise.

How to Make Your Parenting Plan or Agreement

Special Needs of the Child

Consider including provisions in your plan that address any special considerations or unique circumstances regarding your child or your family. This can include health conditions, special learning needs, work schedules, and involvement of extended family members. Look for a parenting plan tool, like Custody X Change, that allows you to customize provisions according to your specific needs.

Considerations When Making Your Parenting Plan

As you create your custody plan, keep the following factors in mind:

  • Put your child’s needs and well-being first and foremost.
  • Evaluate the strengths of each parent and recognize their respective care responsibilities prior to separation.
  • Consider the level of involvement of each parent in the child’s recreational and extracurricular activities.
  • Discuss and agree on how you both want to share parenting responsibilities.
  • If you have multiple children, consider their relationships with each other and whether they require individual time with each parent.
  • Take your child’s preferences into account.
  • Commit to prioritizing your child’s needs above your own.
  • Strive to shield your child from any disagreements between you and the other parent.
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It’s important to remember that your plan must adhere to the custody guidelines and laws of your state for it to be accepted by the court. Additionally, your child’s age will impact what is deemed appropriate for your plan. If either parent is in the military, military-specific provisions can be included. When parents live in different states, the state where the child resides will typically have jurisdiction over the plan, requiring compliance with its laws. For long-distance situations, you can incorporate provisions for travel. Temporarily, you can create a parenting plan until a permanent custody plan is established. Keep in mind that as your child grows older and their needs change, you can modify your plan accordingly. If you have multiple children, you may also consider a split custody arrangement where each parent has custody of different children.

Get Help with Your Parenting Plan or Agreement

Creating a parenting plan on your own can be overwhelming, as it requires precise legal language and inclusion of all necessary details. Fortunately, technology can simplify the process. The Custody X Change app provides step-by-step guidance in crafting a comprehensive parenting plan. By utilizing this tool, you can create a professional document that showcases your competence as a parent and secures your child’s future. For the easiest and most reliable way to make a parenting plan, visit Thumbuddy To Love.