how to create a parent plan in ontario family law

3 Things Every Parenting Plan Should Have

A parenting plan is a useful document all separated spouses should have as part of their parenting arrangement. These plans outline parents’ respective rights and the extent of their involvement with their children. They are more than mere time-splitting schedules; parenting plans are a contract between parents about childrearing and provide consistent structure in kids’ lives. Thus, it is important that parents have a customized practical plan that focuses on the children’s best interests and keeps their lifestyles in mind.

  • Detailed Residence and Access Arrangements

Your parenting plan should include a detailed schedule specifically setting out:

  •  the times each parent is entitled to have the children,
  • pick-up and drop off responsibilities
  • general locations where a parent and child are likely to be spending their time (i.e home or the homes of friends and relatives)
  • up-to-date contact information for each parent and child
  • a holiday schedule for access

A structured schedule gives children consistency and stability. Also knowing when which parent has a child is great for special days or outings with kids in advance. Having this information stored in one place is practical in emergencies and for preventing disputes relating to access as most matters, such as holiday access rights, can be pre-settled in the plan.

  • Procedure to Modify the Parenting Plan

Children’s needs change as they get older. Parenting plans must evolve with the child and require regular review to ensure the child’s best interests are continuously being fulfilled.

In your parenting plan, include provisions scheduling regular intervals where the parents will meet to discuss any necessary adjustments for a child’s current needs. These reviews should be scheduled at certain age or developmental milestones, or every two to five years as the children grow.

You should also include a section detailing a procedure for proposing a modification outside of the scheduled reviews. Sudden changes in a parent’s financial or life circumstances are not uncommon. People can lose their jobs unexpectedly, fall seriously ill, or be offered an employment opportunity in a new location.

A clear process of review and modification gives parents certainty about their rights and obligations. It can also discourage any unreasonable attempts to change the arrangement without notice.

  • Alternative Dispute Resolution

The most important clause in all parenting plans are dispute resolution clauses that govern how unsettled disagreements regarding the plan will be resolved. Where parents have difficulties cooperating or agreeing, these practical provisions can save all parties, time, money, and stress.

Dispute resolution clauses direct disagreements to court alternatives such as mediation, negotiation or arbitration.  A neutral third-party will manage whichever process the parents choose to use in the plan and will assist them to reach their own agreement, or if necessary, can make a decision for them.

These alternatives to court can help minimize hostility and animosity in the long run. Through mediation and negotiation, parents are encouraged to develop their ability to remain neutral and communicate with each other for the sake of the children.

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