Free parenting plan forms assist couples with custody issues as they wade through the difficulties of experiencing a divorce. While co-parenting can bring challenges, having a free parenting plan template at your fingertips can provide structure for both parties. It can help parents navigate through shared parenting duties and keep the best interests of the child in mind.
What Is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan, also called a custody and visitation agreement, is often submitted when parents are going through a divorce and/or facing custody conflicts. It breaks down the pertinent issues regarding the custody and parenting of any children in the relationship. It helps parents come to an agreement over how to share time with their children, and breaks down the decision-making process for parents surrounding topics like the health and education of their children.
For example, if you're free on Wednesday evenings and want to have your children over for dinner, you can put that in a parenting plan to make it an agreed-upon event. Overall, a parenting plan is a way to help parents reduce conflict in the co-parenting process, which allows them to focus on what matters most: caring for their children.
Why Do I Need a Parenting Plan?
Parenting plans help people navigate through the world of co-parenting. They also help parents express their wants and hopes for their children, and can keep parents aligned on the same page. When parents work towards a common goal, such as caring for their children, it can help to have a game plan, especially when children are spending time in different households.
In many cases, the use of a parenting plan is looked upon favorably by the courts. Especially when the plan offers a variety of choices. This shows a parent's willingness to be flexible, that they can stay organized, and that they are taking an active role in trying to provide the most support to their child. These detailed plans can help reduce conflict and power struggles between the parents that are going through a divorce, which can negatively impact kids. In addition, it can open the door for negotiations between both parties and their lawyers.
Use a Printable Parenting Plan Template
Click on the image of the plan that works best for your situation. Then, customize the template to fit your family and their needs and print it out. Each parenting plan template can be edited online. Or, you can simply print it and write in your answers.
Basic Parenting Plan Template
A basic plan covers everything from each parent's family history to visitation time schedules. It also includes how revisions should be submitted. Simply fill out your personal information. Then, write descriptive, factual breakdowns for each category and subcategory.
Parenting Plan Checklist Template
Do you prefer a quicker, more concise parenting plan? If so, then this checklist version is for you. For each category of your child's care, you can check whether it is a joint task/decision or if it is the responsibility of one parent.
Parenting Plan Form
For co-parents with special circumstances or particularly complicated agreements, an open-ended form such as this is ideal. The "Child Information" section is broken down by child for those who may choose different living situations for each one. In addition, each parent then has their own section. This details exactly what they are responsible for in terms of finances and parenting duties.
Free Parenting Plan Forms: Tips and Advice
With so many free parenting plan templates available online, how do you know what plan is right for you? The ultimate goal of a parenting plan is to ensure that the children are cared for and that both parents maintain a good relationship with the child. Using a free parenting plan template will not necessarily guarantee that everything will go smoothly throughout the divorce process and beyond. However, they can be beneficial in making sure your parent-child connection stays strong. There are several points that should be considered as you draw up a parenting plan.
- Family history-Since you don't know who will be viewing your parenting plan, it's safe to assume that whoever does read it really doesn't know anything about you, your spouse, and your family. Give a brief history in a page or two, including how and when you met your spouse, info on your extended family, and where you have lived and worked throughout your marriage. You should also include a medical history of both parents.
- Parenting philosophy-In this section, briefly state your parenting philosophy regarding how you want to raise your children. This should include things like religious preferences and discipline practices. It should also include any other topic that addresses your kids' needs, such as extracurricular activities, school records, insurance plans, income tax information, and emergency contacts.
- Parenting schedules-This is the most important part of the parenting plan. This section is about visitation schedules. To show that you are willing to be flexible (which most judges appreciate), put more than one suggested visitation or custody schedule on the plan. Be sure to outline things like holidays, birthdays, and other special days you want to consider. Also, include times and places for pickups and drop-offs.
- Parenting plan purpose-As you draw up the plan, keep in mind the purpose of creating one. It's important that you state only the facts unless otherwise asked. This plan may be used by the judge, mediators, child psychologists, and guardian ad litems in the determination of primary physical custody and visitation issues. Today's custody issues are often settled with a verdict of joint legal custody. However, one person is typically awarded primary physical custody. This means that that parent's address is the one used on any legal forms, and the child may stay more often with that parent. Also, the parent with primary physical custody is usually the one who receives child support.
- Think about what your kids want. At the end of the day, a parenting plan is all about how to best support your children and their needs. You may find it difficult to get through some issues with the person you are co-parenting with, but try as hard as you can to work through them. Compromise. Be transparent. Remember, you're advocating for your children first and foremost.
Planning a Peaceful Future
Divorce or separation can be difficult on all the parties involved for numerous reasons. A parenting plan helps break down the issues and provides clarity on the many aspects of co-parenting. Keep in mind that not every plan will work for your situation. If you are using the form for legal proceedings, make sure it meets your state's guidelines for written parenting plans.