Essentially, a parenting plan is the roadmap which will direct how the children will be cared for and raised post separation and divorce. It assists parents with understanding their rights and responsibilities with respect to the care of their children post separation and divorce.
What is a parenting plan?
This type of plan is also suggested for people who have not been in a relationship but have fallen pregnant and both want to be part of the child’s life.
Although parenting plans can be drawn up at any stage in a separation or divorce, it is advisable that matters relating to children be sorted out before the separation, and later divorce, take place. This way the children understand how the separation is going to play out and they can begin to process the shift before it happens. It also makes for a more fluid separation process for all parties involved.
The parenting plan seeks to set out and explain how parents should go about fulfilling each of their responsibilities in conjunction with their rights in relation to the children involved. It will comply with the principles of the Children’s Act which always seeks to work in the best interests of the child.
A parenting plan, as specified in the Act would consider the below points as a framework and give full and fair consideration to the needs of each party involved:
- Living Arrangements
- Vacations, Special Days and School Holidays
- Health Care
- Children with Special Needs
- Extra-Curricular Activities
- Grandparents and Extended Family
- Communication Between Parents
- Changes to the Parenting Plan
- Solving Problems
- Other Parenting Issues
From a psychological context, the co-parenting solution, would be assisted by myself. Important to this process is giving the child a voice. The process must provide the child the space and opportunity to outline their needs and how they feel. There are various contributory factors as to the degree of participation of the child , for example, the age of the child. Importantly, the child’s choice is not the deciding factor in any decision but is important to provide them with a platform to state their own needs.
During the drafting phase, all aspects of family life are explored, focusing on what is in the best interests of the child, and, together with the parents, determining aspects such as
- how often and when each parent will see the child,
- which home will become the primary residence,
- which religion the child will be brought up in,
- which schools he/she will attend and where the child will spend holidays.
In addition, the plan may specify
- how parents will communicate with each other and the child,
- how new partners will be introduced,
- Issues relating to dispute resolution.
There are an infinite number of possibilities available when drawing up a parenting plan. The bottom line is to find a plan that works for the whole family. Remember that parents can still participate in their children’s lives even when they are living elsewhere or does not have frequent or equal contact with them.
Parenting plans should minimise loss and maximise relationships for children, and both parents should realise that they are more important to their children than alternative care providers. Ultimately, the role of parents is to cooperate and to provide as many opportunities for their children as possible.
As children develop and their needs change over the years, the parenting plan is revisited and reworked in accordance with needs of the adolescent or teenager. Reviews can range from every six months to every two years, depending on the child’s age.