Sorting out the arrangements for children following divorce or separation can be one of the hardest, most contentious issues a couple will face when their relationship breaks down. The role of a parenting plan is invaluable.

Here we provide some help and advice, including a downloadable plan, which can be used as a basis for discussion when agreeing child arrangements.

What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan is simply a  record of the agreed arrangements relating to children after their parents separate – to include, for example, living arrangements, education and health care.

Why use a parenting plan?

Knowing where to begin the process of discussion can be very difficult. Often parents become bogged down by particular details at the cost of addressing the important and practical issues regarding the bigger picture. By using a parenting plan as a discussion tool from the outset, parents can ensure that they do not lose sight of what is best for the family following a split.

A parenting plan clearly demonstrates parents’ commitment to a shared cause and provides a framework for putting the children’s best interests first. It enables both parents to be fully involved in all of the key aspects of decision-making and childcare.

The advantages of a parenting plan also include the following:

  • Reduced legal fees
  • Increased stability
  • Reduced conflict
  • Demonstrable commitment to the best interests of children
  • Keeps parents from courtroom contention
  • Flexibility
  • Better long term prospects
  • Easier and swifter than going to court
  • Allows for input from children
  • Can be tailored to family-specific situations
  • Provides a reference tool for future conflict/disagreement

Who is the plan for?

A parenting plan is useful for all separating and divorcing parents. However, it may be of especial benefit to any parent wishing to achieve the following:

  • A child arrangements proposal for the consideration of the other parent
  • A mediation process
  • A discussion regarding child arrangements
  • Formalisation of the agreed arrangements for children
  • A C100 application for a child arrangements order

Many parents wish to formalise the arrangements they have agreed upon for their children, and a parenting plan is designed to enable parents to have a written agreement to achieve this.

Such plans suit situations where both parents are on relatively amicable terms and are readily able to reach an agreement regarding the children – whether or not this involves the assistance of a family mediator.

They are particularly useful in situations where children are very young and the care arrangements are therefore likely to change significantly over a relatively short period of time. They are more flexible than Consent Orders (which require mandatory safeguarding checks) and can be changed easily and with minimal expense.

Knowing what to include in discussions, and where to start can be difficult, which is why Oratto has produced a parenting plan questionnaire to help you get started with your discussions. You may wish to include other discussion points that are relevant to your children but our plan addresses many of the key issues, including the following:

  • How often the children will be with each parent during the school week
  • How the weekends are shared
  • Arrangements for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays etc
  • Arrangements for school holidays, bank holidays and inset days
  • Arrangements for school events and parents' evenings
  • How you will communicate with each other and the children when they are with the other parent
  • Arrangements for medical and dental appointments
  • Who has responsibility for specific decision making, including clarity over which decisions require joint approval
  • The process for dispute resolution
  • Arrangements regarding religious and faith based activities
  • Arrangements for special family events
  • Arrangements relating to contact time with grandparents and other family members

Parenting plan legal advice

You may wish to seek legal advice regarding your rights and responsibilities in relation to your child or children. Doing this at an early stage is important if you are to ascertain that your wishes are realistic, legally sound and, most importantly, child-focused.  Fortunately, Oratto can put you in contact very quickly with a number of experienced family law solicitors all of whom can help you confidently achieve these ends.

Downloadable parenting plan document from Oratto

Our parenting plan questionnaire is written to help you and your child’s other parent conduct a constructive discussion about parenting after separation. It gives both parents the chance to think about and put forward how they wish the children to be raised post-separation. The plan will also then help you set out your agreed arrangements for your children so that you can formalise the agreement and positively move forward with your lives.