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What should we include in our parenting agreement?

Deciding how to parent together but separately is often a challenge for parents who divorce or break up. There can be disagreements, confusion and difficult emotions along the way, and most parents aren't sure of what to expect as they transition into a new parenting arrangement.

This is why parenting plans are so important. These plans serve as a guide to parents to help them understand and protect their rights as well as the boundaries and rules of parenting a child separately. As such, there are some critical elements you will likely want to include in your agreement.

The basics

Parenting plans should always include the fundamental elements of custody and parenting time. This includes:

  • Custody and visitation schedules (including holidays and school vacations)
  • Details on decision-making rights of each parent
  • Guidelines for how to resolve disputes

Other elements to consider

Your parenting plan is a tool for you, and you should be confident that it meets your needs and reflects the best interests of your child. As such, your plan could detail certain additional provisions

For instance, you might include communication guidelines. These can determine the frequency and mode of approved communication between parents and between parents and the child. 

You might also include specific direction for child care, protocols for what happens if a parent fails to show up for visitation and restrictions on using alcohol, tobacco and other substances around a child.

Some parents also put non-disparagement clauses or terms in these agreements. These essentially say that parties agree not to speak negatively about the other parent in front of the children. A parenting plan might also prohibit parents from using a child to deliver messages to one another.

Creating the right plan for you

Whatever you decide to include in your parenting plan will depend on your specific circumstances and legal rights. It must also reflect what is in your child's best interests. As such, it should be created thoughtfully and with legal support to ensure it is fair and enforceable.

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