skip to Main Content

How to create a Parenting Plan

Divorce and separation are painful for everyone involved – particularly children, who need support, love and good relationships with both parents. Settling a dispute about the arrangements for your children can be hard to do – it is inevitably a stressful and emotionally charged task, feelings can run highParenting Plan and it can be easy to slip into blaming the other parent for a particular difficulty, rather than working together for the benefit of  the children to resolve a dispute. Although a Parenting Plan can be drawn up at any stage, for many parents, one of the first steps they consider taking after separation is to try to agree a Parenting Plan with their ex-partner, detailing the practical issues of parenting.

What is included in a Parenting Plan?

A Parenting Plan asks you to think about your children and, based on their sex, ages and personalities, what they are likely to need in consideration of the factors set out within the “Welfare Checklist”. Putting the best interests of the children first, the Parenting Plan will set out a shared commitment by the parents to your children and their future.

Ordinarily, the Parenting Plan will include agreed positions between parents on practical decisions about children’s care across a range of areas including:

  • how the parents will communicate
  • how they anticipate dealing with disputes and differences in the future
  • where the children will live
  • what contact they will have with other parties, e.g. grandparents or other family members,
  • the parents’ thoughts on how they will deal with religious matters, medical treatment, or the future educational requirements etc.

Ultimately, it will be for the parents to decide what issues they wish to include, given that every child’s circumstances are unique. Additionally, those circumstances are ever-changing, as children grow older, have greater independence and hold a grow voice in what they want. It is, therefore, helpful to consider reviewing the Parenting Plan on a regular basis.

How do you write a Parenting Plan?

Parenting Plans are best clearly set out with headings, illustrating the core Parenting Plan 2areas that parents feel are relevant to their children’s circumstances.

There are many templates available online, including from CAFCASS, which encourage parents to address commonly faced issues affecting most families, but it should be remembered that the Parenting Plan is a bespoke document and not all the issues will affect your children. For example, whether the children should have access to a mobile phone and if so, from what age, how will any new partner be introduced to the children, will the parties attend school sports day or extra-curricular events together etc.

Is a Parenting Plan legally binding?

When considering disputes between parents in matters concerning children, the court has a duty to consider the factors set out in the “welfare checklist”. These factors are detailed in s.1(3) Children Act 1989 and include a range of issues that the court will have regard to in every case concerning issues of contact, living arrangements, healthcare, religious or educational matters etc.

The welfare checklist highlights those factors that the court should have regard to ‘in particular’. It is open to the court to specify other matters that are relevant in a particular case. The checklist is not supposed to be a complete and restrictive list, so that other factors cannot be raised or considered, if they are appropriate.

Although not formally binding, the content of an agreed Parenting Plan will be a factor that the court will likely give due consideration to. The weight attached to the content of the Plan will be determined on a case by case basis, but will arguably be strengthened by the parents obtaining independent legal advice on the content of the Parenting Plan.

What happens if a Parenting Plan isn’t followed?

If the Parenting Plan has been well considered and prepared, it is likely to afford a route for dispute resolution that avoids court proceedings in the first instance. Frequently, this may mean that the parties agree that any dispute between them or proposed change to the plan is first considered at mediation. The Parenting Plan will allow either parent to invoke a referral to a Mediator to try and allow the parties to resolve their dispute amicably.

Should mediation, or any other form of alternative dispute resolution, not successfully settle a dispute, the parties will be free to make an application to court in order to have a judicial determination of the matter. It is important to note that a Parenting Plan should not attempt to preclude a parent from being able to make an application to court. Parents should always appreciate that the family justice system will offer a final recourse for any disputes between parties.

What are the benefits of a well-designed Parenting Plan?

Separation is painful for everyone involved – particularly children. ParentingParenting Plan 3 following separation will always be challenging but doing so with a shared sense of understanding on the approach you and your former partner will take towards the children will minimise the stress, anxiety and potential acrimony than can surface.

With a well-designed Parenting Plan, coordinated and agreed by the parents, the risk of costly and emotionally fraught court proceedings is significantly reduced.

If you would like to discuss Parenting Plans or any other issues in relation to child arrangements, then please contact us.

Philip Hunter

Philip is a Resolution member and formed part of the campaign to support no fault divorce proceedings. Philip is also contributor to the legal and national media on family law issues.

More Posts

Talk to us in confidence

Our experts are here to guide and support you.

Related Services:

Find out where you stand

If you are ready to take the next step, click the button below to provide us with detailed information about your individual circumstances. We can then offer you confidential advice tailored to your situation right from the start, with no obligation.

Back To Top