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What should you include in your parenting plan?

As part of your custody agreement that designates how you and your co-parent will share custody of your children, it's important to draw up a parenting plan. This plan will provide more detail about how the two of you will deal with various parenting issues as your children grow up.

A well-written parenting plan can minimize confusion and conflict because it gives you a document that outlines expectations for both of you as you parent across two households. Parenting plans can be as detailed as you choose. They can be used to address a multitude of topics.

What you include in your parenting plan will depend on your individual family. Let's look at two common parenting plan topics.

Parenting schedule

This is where you'll address the specifics of which days the kids will be with each parent. It should also address who's responsible for pickups and drop-offs and whether other locations besides the parents' homes will be designated drop-off/pick-up locations. It's a good idea to detail how far in advance one parent needs to request a change to this schedule.

It's wise to address how the parenting schedule will be handled over holidays, vacation time and other days that kids are out of school. Having holiday schedules set upfront can help parents and kids make plans. Don't forget to include birthdays in this schedule.

Parent-child and other family communication

Kids should be able to communicate as much as they'd like with the parent they aren't spending time with. You may want to choose the types of communication (phone, text, Skype, etc.) you and your kids will use and perhaps designate the frequency.

If it's important for you or your kids that they maintain contact with grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and other extended family, you may want to designate that in your parenting plan. Too often, tensions between a parent and former in-laws can interfere with a child's ability to continue those important relationships.

These are just a couple of subjects that probably should be covered in your parenting plan. Your family law attorney can suggest others and help you work to negotiate issues around them with your co-parent as you draft a plan that will serve as a valuable co-parenting map.

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