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What should you include in your parenting plan?

Parents facing a divorce may dread deciding on matters concerning their children. The uncertainty of the process to come can be overwhelming and you may fear how your time with your child will be affected, as well as how your child will adjust to the changes.

Tennessee courts favor preserving and promoting a child’s relationship with both parents whenever possible. Courts also recognize that a divorce or separation can be particularly hard on children. To ease the transition, a parenting plan can help to distinguish each parent’s responsibilities while prioritizing the needs, stability and future of their child.

What is a parenting plan?

An effective parenting plan goes beyond the traditional concepts of custody and visitation. It places more emphasis on both parents working collaboratively together to put the needs of the child first. The goal of a cohesive parenting plan is to avoid bitterness, hostility and frequent disputes that can arise between co-parents.

Each parenting plan may be unique. Terms may be highly specific or generic, varying according to your custody arrangement, the age of your children and more. When one parent is the primary residential parent, a parenting plan can provide necessary structure to benefit both parents and ultimately, the child.

Considerations to include

Your parenting plan should comply with the terms of your custody arrangement. Terms to consider can include:

  • Schedules for holidays. Reiterate arrangements for birthdays, holidays, school breaks and any other event that would not fall under a normal schedule.
  • Scheduling details. Include terms addressing the logistics of pick-ups and drop-offs of your child, such as which parent is responsible and when.
  • Financial matters. Your plan can also reiterate agreed-upon financial matters, including child support obligations, health or dental insurance and more.
  • Plans for making decisions. Detail who will make both day-to-day and major decisions, including on matters like education, health care and religion.
  • Confronting future disputes. You may also address how you and your co-parent will address future disagreements or requests to modify the plan.

It is important to remember that your parenting plan may require adjustments as your child ages. A plan drafted for a toddler may no longer be relevant for a teenager. Work together as co-parents to modify the plan as necessary to accommodate your child’s evolving needs and interests.

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