In the event of a separation or divorce, a parenting plan is used to define and detail the manner in which parents raise, look after shape their children’s future. These plans may include arrangements regarding:
- Decision-making (individual, joint, or by consulting the other parent);
- Information sharing by the parents regarding the children (from their schools, health practitioners, third party professionals, etc.);
- Choosing the specific times when each parent will spend time with the child; and,
- Determining other parenting issues
The children’s needs, preferences and interests should inform the parenting plan. The format of the plan should be clear with an aim to reduce any future disputes or disagreements between divorced or separated parents. It is advisable that both parents cooperate with respect to these issues in order to avoid conflict.
Jointly deciding on a parenting plan helps ensure that the children cope better with their parents’ divorce.
What to Include in a Parenting Plan
The parenting plan lays down the rules to care for your child after you separate from your spouse, and includes:
- Defined parenting time and residency arrangements;
- Specific rules regarding consultation and decision-making;
- Information sharing about the children and making child-related decisions emergency and non-emergency situations;
- Responsibilities of each parent, etc.
The parenting plan can be an informal document where parents may choose to deal with issues as they arise. Or they may want to decide all child-related issues in writing and in specific detail, so as to avoid future disagreement or disputes.
Informal parenting plans, especially those based on verbal agreements or understandings can be impossible to enforce in the future, if there is disagreement. A court of competent jurisdiction will often determine such issues by assessing the credibility of each parent and assessing who is best situated at ensuring what is in the best interests of his or her children.
Parenting plans can be agreed upon on a temporary basis, if the matter is ongoing and is being litigated at court, or on a final basis as part of the spouses’ Separation Agreement, or a judge’s final Order.
Parenting Plan Disputes
There are various options to assist separated parents in resolving their parenting plan disputes.
Mediation is a method by which a third party neutral, also known as a mediator, obtains each parent’s position on the issues and assists both in reaching a resolution by temporary or final Minutes of Settlement, or Minutes of Understanding. The mediator has to be objective, or not take sides, and is not allowed to provide independent legal advice to either parent or spouse. Both parents have to consent to participate in mediation.
Arbitration can be chosen in cases where an arbitrator, another third party neutral, is selected to render a decision where parents cannot agree. The decisions of the arbitrator are binding and upheld by judges at court. Binding arbitration provides a more cost-effective solution than litigation at court. Both parents have to consent to participate in arbitration.
Parenting plan disputes can also be resolved via negotiation between family law lawyers retained to represent each parent. The lawyers may hold a 4-way meeting and then prepare the detailed parenting plan jointly, based upon what their respective clients have agreed to.
If neither one of the above works, or is consented to, then the parent seeking a resolution may have no option but to litigate the matter at court by commencing a contested Application. The latter is by far the most expensive and least practical option.
Make the Plan Official
Once the parenting plan is mutually agreed upon and finalized, it needs to be signed by both parents and their respective witnesses. It can also form part of the parents’ Separatin Agreement, a temporary court Order, or a final court Order by a court of competent jurisdiction.
In the absence of a mutual agreement between the parents, or consent Order, a judge may make a final decision on the parenting plan, after hearing and reading both parents’ submissions.
Factors Considered in the Parenting Plan
The parenting plan prioritizes the children’s best interests. A judge may also consider some of the following factors when deciding on the parenting plan:
- The love and affection of each parent and the child, as well as the child’s relationship with the other parent;
- Preferences of the child, where these can be reasonably determined;
- Duration and stability of the child’s home atmosphere;
- The ability of either parent to provide the child with basic education, necessities, and other needs;
- Special needs requirements of a child, where applicable, as well as the cost associated with same;
- Proposed parenting plan of each parent;
- Each parent’s home dynamics, stability and permanence, etc.
How We Can Help
At Nanda & Associate Lawyers, our excellent family law lawyers can assist you by drafting a practical, reasonable and detailed parenting plan for you and your children following separation / divorce from your spouse. They understand your specific circumstances and provide tailored and customized solutions for each of your parenting needs. Many legal complexities can arise in drafting parenting plans, and an experienced family law lawyer can help you navigate these and other issues in a professional, knowledgeable and cost-effective manner.
Our Mississauga Lawyers are available for a consultation. Come and experience our quality legal counsel and personalized care we give to each of our clients.