What to Include in a Parenting Plan

What to Include in a Parenting Plan

What to Include in a Parenting Plan

Parenting plans in California are flexible because the court prefers that parents work together on a schedule. There are guidelines for plans, but they can adapt to the specific needs of a family. A judge will ensure the children’s interests are put first in the parenting plan you set forward.

What Basic Information Is in a Parenting Plan?

Parenting plans must address child custody and parenting time or visitation. This means your plan should address where your children will live and when they’ll see each parent, as well as basic parameters for caring for children.

When outlining child custody, your parenting plan has to address both legal and physical custody.

  • Legal custody – This refers to the ability to make important decisions for your children, including healthcare, education, religious activities, extracurriculars, and travel. One parent may have sole legal custody of these rights and responsibilities. Parents may also share joint legal custody, and you should explain in your parent plan how you will share, divide, or otherwise communicate decisions.
  • Physical custody – This refers to where your children will live and which parent cares for them. One parent may have sole physical custody, or the parents may share joint physical custody. You can include a parenting schedule that illustrates when your children will be in each household.

When determining custody arrangements, it is important to remember that your child’s interests must be at the forefront of decisions. This is how judges determine if your parenting plan will be effective. Until a court order for custody is in place, you both have equal rights to the care of your children and the decisions made about them.

Specific Items To Consider

Depending on your situation, you and the parent of your child may also want to consider some other items when creating a parenting plan. Each of these factors may impact a previously determined parenting schedule, or they may simply be things you should discuss and have written agreements on. Though not required, here are some details to think about regarding the care of your child:

  • Overnight visits
  • School schedules
  • Healthcare
  • Holidays and vacations
  • Transportation needs
  • Childcare
  • Religious practices
  • Extracurriculars
  • Familial and third-party visitation
  • Screen time and cell phone access
  • House rules, such as school expectations, chores, and discipline

You should also consider aspects such as:

  • Clear communication – Parents may want to ensure that they tell each other about emergency situations or major events. They may also want to include instructions on limiting and resolving conflict.
  • Communication turnaround – If parents plan on making a certain decision together, but one parent is unavailable, at what point can the other parent act alone?
  • Expenses – Parents should determine how they will split finances or large expenses like tuition or medical costs. This determination should take child support into consideration.
  • Special circumstances – Whether parents live far apart, in different states, need supervision during visitation, or have a child with special needs like high medical costs, a parenting plan should cover these things.
  • Modifications – Parents should consider potential future revisions to the plan. As children grow, their needs will be unpredictable. Parents can also have unexpected life changes. Determine how modifications will be requested and made to the parenting plan and how to handle the situation if parents disagree.

Above all, you and the other parent should prioritize your children’s interests and find a way to communicate and respect each other during the parenting plan creation. Compromise and discussion are essential parts of a plan.

If Parents Can’t Agree on a Parenting Plan

In most circumstances, it’s in everyone’s interests if parents can come to an agreement. You know your family and your children better than anyone and can create a plan that accurately reflects their needs. The court prefers that parents come to an agreement, but this isn’t always possible. Sometimes the process of creating a parenting plan is too contentious, or a parent may be unwilling to compromise.

If you and your ex-partner are unable to agree, the judge and the court will make the decision for you. During this, you both must present evidence for how you believe custody arrangements should be made. The judge will take this evidence under review. The decision will rest largely on the child’s needs but may also work around parental needs.

It’s better if you can avoid this option for a parenting plan. When the court decides your parenting plan, you have almost no control over the outcome of the court order, but you have to follow it. It may be inconvenient or may not even be in your child’s interest. If you create a parenting plan, you have a say in court-ordered custody.

Finalizing Your Divorce


Q: What Is Required in a Parenting Plan in California?

A: California parenting plans are required to address physical and legal custody. Each type of custody can be sole custody or shared jointly between parents. When addressing custody, a parenting plan should outline where children live, who cares for them, and who makes important life decisions. If parents share joint custody, the split should be explained in detail.

Q: Who Can Draw Up a Parenting Plan?

A: Parenting plans are negotiated between parents with the help of a third party. This party may be a mediator, psychologist, social worker, or mediation attorney. Both parents must create and sign a written agreement that will then be presented to the court. The court prefers negotiation between parents because it will often be better for the entire family and the child’s interests. If parents are unable to negotiate, the court will assign a parenting plan.

Q: What Is the Most Common Custody Arrangement in California?

A: Joint custody arrangements are more common than sole custody arrangements. California courts prefer to order joint custody, when possible, under the belief that it’s in the child’s interests to spend time with each parent. Joint legal custody is fairly common. Joint physical custody, or a nearly equal parenting time split, is also common but can be harder to achieve. If sole physical custody is necessary for certain circumstances, the courts will often pair it with joint legal custody and generous visitation rights for the other parent.

Q: Can a Father Get 50–50 Custody in California?

A: A parent’s gender typically has nothing to do with how the court assigns child custody. If parents operate under a joint physical custody parenting schedule, this will likely be close to a 50-50 schedule. However, California laws don’t require that the split is perfectly 50-50 as long as both parents spend enough time with their children.

Mediation Attorneys For Your Parenting Plan

Bickford Blado & Botros have experience with child custody cases and in putting a family’s priorities to the forefront. We can provide you with guidance in parenting plan mediation. Contact us today for more information.



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