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What is a parenting plan, and do I need one?

View profile for Georgina Stavrou
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Separation and divorce is often a very difficult and emotional time for a family especially when children are involved. To assist parents think through and hopefully reach agreement on some if not all the issues impacting on their children parenting plans have been developed. These decisions may include the children’s living arrangements, finances, holidays, health and emotional care. The Plan may also include details of how parties intend to communicate with each other, and how they plan to deal with any differences between them in the future.

It is acknowledged that the interests of the children should be put first when creating such a Plan. There are various plans to be found on the Internet. ‘CAFCASS’ (The Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service) have developed a child focused template that parties can use when creating their family’s Plan. It is hoped that in preparing the Plan parents can come together to discuss the care of their children with the aim of achieving clarity and certainty moving forward.

Points for consideration when discussing a Parenting Plan
CAFCASS have provided some helpful points for consideration when discussing the preparation of a Parenting Plan. Below are some examples of the kind of questions that you may wish to consider:

Living and childcare arrangements
• Will there be a main place where the children will live? If so, where?
• With whom shall the children spend time with?
• If neither of you is able to look after the children who will?
• How will you arrange pick-ups and drop-offs?
• Who will take the children to their after school or weekend activities?
• How do you make sure that the children can share special days with both of you?
• How do you make sure that we both have holidays with the children?

• How will you share the day-to-day costs for the children e.g. clothes, shoes, school trips, activities and hobbies?
• What are you going to do if your financial positions change?
• How will the financial arrangements change as the children grow up e.g. payment of University fees?

• How will you deal with the school to ensure that we are each involved in the children’s schooling?

• What parenting decisions do you need to consult each other on?
• How are you going to share important information concerning the children with each other?
• How do you intend to settle any disputes?
• How are you going to behave towards each other in front of the children?
• What do you agree to do in cases of emergencies e.g. accidents?
• How are new partners going to be introduced to your children’s lives?
• Are there any important rules or routines that you consider essential for the children?

Other issues
• Who will organise routine health issues?
• Are there any religious or cultural issues that need to be agreed?

The list is merely a general guideline of the kinds of matters that you may wish to include in your Parenting Plan. It is by no means exhaustive. The ultimate aim is to create a Plan that works for you, after all each family is different. If you choose to enter into a Parenting Plan it is advisable that it is reviewed and updated regularly taking into account any changes to your circumstances.

Mediation can help if you cannot agree on a Parenting Plan
Mediators are trained to encourage parties to resolve disputes between themselves. They are completely independent and will not take sides. A mediator cannot advise you but will assist you in reaching an amicable agreement that you will be reasonably happy with going forward. Most mediators are used to working with and often encourage the use of parenting plans.

There are different types of trained mediators, some are lawyers, some have a financial background and others come from a social work background. Mediation has many advantages as it can be a cheaper, quicker and more effective method of resolving a dispute than Court proceedings.

Freemans offer a lawyer led mediation service in their Family Department please contact Mark Kosmin to discuss.