How to Write an Effective Parenting Plan That Works for All

Parenting Plan
Co-parenting from two separate households does not have to be the drama-filled nightmare you may be expecting. To help separate parents co-parent more effectively, California family courts usually implement documents known as “parenting plans” into final orders for divorce or child custody matters. Parenting plans dictate how parents will co-parent from a practical standpoint and help mitigate any logistical headaches that may arise down the line. Find out what an effective parenting plan includes and how you can make it work for you and your family.

Visitation schedules and drop off/pick-ups

The most important aspect of any parenting plan is a visitation schedule, which depends on your family’s own individual circumstances. For co-parents who live in different states or are geographically far from one another, a visitation schedule will be even more necessary, as weekly visitation is probably not possible. Even if you live minutes away from your former spouse, a visitation schedule will guide many critical details and take the stress out of co-parenting.

The two questions a visitation schedule will answer are when and where visitation with the non-custodial parent will take place. A visitation schedule will determine how often visitation will occur (e.g. several times a week, a couple of times a month, one or two long periods during the year). Rather than trying to figure this out weekly, a parenting plan allows parents to agree and determine this several year ahead of time, eliminating the need for contentious discussions down the line. It is important that parents put aside their differences and work together in crafting a visitation schedule that incorporates their own schedules and their children’s obligations (school, sports, lessons, etc.) into a plan that works in practice.

Medical decisions

A parenting plan will also set forth how decisions regarding your child’s medical will be made. Will one parent make the decisions or will both parents be required to contribute to the decision? Medical decisions can range from treatment for illness or the child’s braces. Figuring out these issues and who will make these decisions ahead of time can eliminate the need for angry discussions later.

Educational decisions

A parenting plan will also set forth whether one or both parents will make decisions about a child’s education. These decisions can include where a child will attend school, any educational enrichment programs they will participate in, and the need to address any problems a child may be having.


Which extracurricular activities a child participates in is also another issue that can be addressed in a parenting plan. This portion may be as detailed as whether a child will participate in piano or soccer or may more broadly which parent has decision over this. For example, a parenting plan may state that the mother may decide the child’s winter activities and the father may decide the summer activities.

Long-term planning

Finally, a parenting plan gives parents the opportunity to plan for the long-term future of their children. A toddler’s needs and activities will not be the same in three years, so a parenting plan can allow parents to make all of the above decisions ahead of time. For example, a visitation schedule may state that a father may visit with his six-month-old twice a week during the day but may allow for overnight visits once the child turns one year old. Or, a parenting plan may take into account pick-up and drop-off needs as the child gets older.

Contact Us!

While the divorce or break-up may be painful, planning how you will successfully co-parent does not have to be. Allow our experienced team of family law attorneys dedicated to helping California families to craft a parenting plan that works for your life and your child’s life. Contact us today for assistance.