What is a Parenting Plan?
Parenting Plans are a statement that set out parents’ commitment to and their hopes for how they will parent together even though they now no longer live together. A Parenting Plan can be a useful tool for separated parents to identify, agree and set out in writing arrangements for their children.
A Parenting Plan is a written plan worked out between parents (and sometimes grandparents and other family members). It can cover practical decisions. A Parenting Plan sets out a shared commitment to your children and their future. A Parenting Plan may cover some or all of the following;
- Communication and dealing with differences;
- Living arrangements – who your children will spend time with, including other family members and grandparents, how often and when;
- Emotional wellbeing.
A Parenting Plan does not cover how you intend to divide up your money, home and assets.
A Parenting Plan is a voluntary statement of parental aspirations, plans and arrangements. Parenting Plans do not have evidential weight in any court proceedings as it cannot be assumed that such a plan will necessarily reflect the child’s best interests. It does not create a “legally binding document”.
A Parenting Plan often affords separated or separating parents to be truly focused on their continuing role as parents to the children rather than being wholly focussed on dividing the child’s time between them. It helps parents to think rather more about what is important for their child and how they will continue to have discussions with regard to the different aspects of their separated parenting and how they will put contingencies in place so that they can avoid getting into future difficulties about their parental responsibilities. It could be said that it is a “blueprint” for their everyday future parenting and not just a statement of dividing time between them.
A Parenting Plan is not to be used as a “weapon” between them but more to be seen as a way of them working together with the children .
What is a Separated Parent Information Programme?
There are a network of skilled, trained and experienced volunteer organisations which deliver Separated Parents’ Information Programmes. The programme is not about your parenting skills but it does give you information and ideas about co-parenting and the help that is available. It is said that the programme works best if both parents attend a SPIP. There is a leaflet explaining more about SPIPs on the CAFCASS website www.cafcass.co.uk.
What do we need to think about for our Parenting Plan?
Think about the needs of each of your children. Your Plan would be unique because no two parents and no children are the same.
In mediation we would aim to ensure that the Plan should be practical, simple and as concrete as possible. You can make the Plan as detailed as you like. The Plan should also be clear. It may be the case that you wish to review the Plan in the future.