By Michelle Garneau

Following a separation or divorce, your children’s needs remain the same. They need stability, nurturing, and security. They may have questions such as: Where will I be living? Who will be picking me up from school? Will I still get to see my friends? Do I get to go to my after-school activities?

These questions can be answered in a parenting plan. But what is a parenting plan?

It is simply a written agreement about how you will raise your children together after a separation or divorce.

It includes information about the parenting schedule, medical care, extracurricular activities for your children and so on. Once this plan has been written up, parents can get legal advice about it and the agreement can be legalized through a lawyer or the courts. This makes the agreement enforceable.

Here is a list of items you can include in your Parenting Plan:

1. Living arrangement & parenting schedules.
2. Transportation and exchange of children between parents.
3. Holidays, vacations & special occasions.
4. Decision-making (e.g. medical care, education, extracurricular activities, religion, who the children will associate with).
5. Communication between parents and children.
6. Extended Family – how they will be involved in the children’s lives.
7. Travel.
8. Moving to another residence, city or town.
9. Communication between parents about the children.
10. How to resolve any future conflicts.

We provide parents with this list before your mediation. Some people go over these items together beforehand, others use it to put together a list of what they want to discuss with the other parent.

Advantages of making a Parenting Plan yourselves rather than a Judge deciding for you:

1. It benefits your children to see their parents working together and being cooperative.
2. Focus is on both parents having a say.
3. It takes less time and costs less money.
4. It keeps the lines of communication open.
5. A Parenting Plan is personalized to meet your children’s needs and your situation.
6. Follow-through is more likely if parents make the plan themselves.
7. It reduces conflict by having a plan to follow.

Building a parenting plan helps you move forward with a plan for you and your children’s future. It takes away some of the unpredictability experienced during a separation or divorce and creates stability by promoting clear communication, reducing conflict and acts as a guide.