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  • Writer's pictureFrederick van Zyl

How to create a parenting plan that works for your family

Updated: 17 hours ago

Divorce is a challenging process, especially when children are involved. One of the most crucial aspects of post-divorce life is creating a parenting plan that works for your family. A well-crafted parenting plan can help ensure that your child continues to thrive despite the changes in their family structure. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the importance of a parenting plan, the key elements to include, and tips for creating an effective plan.


Understanding a parenting plan


A parenting plan outlines how parents will raise their child after separation or divorce. It covers various aspects of parenting, including where and with whom the child will live, visitation schedules, decision-making responsibilities, communication guidelines, how disputes are to be resolved, and even maintenance. The important thing to remember is that the plan is not set in stone. It should evolve with the changing needs of your family.


A great parenting plan is one that is created around the needs of the child and provides a clear framework for parents to follow. If you get it right, your parenting plan can help to reduce conflict and misunderstandings and provide structure and safety for your child.


Key elements of a parenting plan


Parental responsibilities and rights

Decide who the child will live with and how you will share childcare responsibilities. One parent could have primary care (where the child lives with that parent and visit the other from time to time), or you can share the responsibilities equally.


Decision Making

Decide who will make important decisions about the child’s welfare, education, and health. Most important decisions should be made together, but one parent should have the freedom to make day-today decisions when the child is in his or her care.


Contact Arrangements

Decide how much time each of you will spend with your children. For instance, if your child lives with you most of the time, you must decide together how much time the other parent will spend with the child. How will you share weekends, holidays, and special occasions? It is important that the plan clearly indicates how and when your child moves between the two households.


Communication

You must set rules for how you will communicate about the child, including the preferred method of communication and frequency of updates. A good parenting plan establishes guidelines for how and when each parent can communicate with the child when they are with the other parent (e.g., by phone calls or video chats).


Financial support

The parenting plan must detail the financial contributions each of you will make towards the child's upbringing, such as school fees, medical costs, and daily expenses. This can be dealt with separately in a consent paper.  The plan must clearly indicate how sudden or unforeseen costs like medical emergencies or costs relating to extracurricular activities will be paid, and how a parent will be reimbursed for these expenses.


Education

You must decide how decisions will be made regarding your child’s education, including school choice and involvement in school activities. You should document each parent's right to engage with the school and to receive progress reports from the school.


Medical care

If you do not have a separate agreement such as a consent paper, the parenting plan can stipulate which parent’s medical aid insurance plan the child will join and the how those costs will be shared. The plan should also advise how doctors are selected and how you will make decisions about elective medical treatment.


Dispute resolution

Conflict is inevitable and the plan should contain procedures for resolving disagreements between parents, such as mediation or counselling. A great way to reduce conflict is to keep the lines of communication open and to review and modify the parenting plan as the child’s needs change over time.


General welfare

Try to establish similar routines for the child and consistent strategies for disciplining them to ensure a stable and harmonious upbringing. You should agree on the child’s participation in religious, cultural, and social activities.


Special circumstances

It’s impossible to predict the future, but try to think about how you will treat special circumstances, for instance a parent moving to a different city, province, or country. Include clear guidelines to deal with the effect such a decision will have on either parent’s right to spend time with your child.


Tips for creating an effective parenting plan


Prioritize your child’s needs

  • Always act in the best interests of your child. Consider their age, personality, and needs when developing the plan.

  • Ensure the plan supports their emotional, physical, and educational well-being.


Be flexible and adaptable

  • Life is unpredictable, and circumstances can change. Build flexibility into your plan to accommodate changes in schedules, emergencies, and evolving needs as your child grows.

  • Include a method for making adjustments to the plan when necessary.


Maintain clear and respectful communication

  • Effective communication between co-parents is essential. Set clear guidelines for how and when you will discuss issues related to the child.

  • Use respectful and non-confrontational language to minimise conflicts.


Seek mediation and professional help

  • If you struggle to agree on certain aspects of the parenting plan, consider seeking help from a family therapist. Formal disputes can be referred to a parenting coordinator for mediation.

  • Professional assistance can provide a neutral perspective and facilitate productive discussions.


Conclusion

Creating a parenting plan that works for your family is crucial for ensuring the well-being of your child after a divorce. Remember, the goal is to provide a stable and loving environment for your child, helping them navigate this transition as smoothly as possible.


At Van Zyl Scheepers Attorneys we can help you develop a comprehensive plan that meets your child’s needs, while allowing you to maintain an amicable relationship with your co-parent. Contact us if you want to learn more or if you want to discuss your parenting plan options over a cup of coffee.

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