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Creating a Parenting Plan - Put your children first

Going through a marital breakdown is a stressful and emotional period for all the family, and sometimes it can be difficult to focus on the emotional needs of your children when you are feeling in such a turmoil yourself. It is, however, really important to listen to your children and ask them how they feel and what is worrying them as their feelings could be different to yours, and how you respond can significantly affect their wellbeing.

The aim of a Parenting Plan is to bring some focus and clarity on how you are going to identify your child’s needs, communicate with them, and reassure them, during and after your separation.

Our role at Watson Thomas Solicitors is to help you both reach a point of resolution and we offer family mediation to help settle differences without the need to go to Court. Having a Parenting Plan prepared prior to mediation provides a focal point for discussion, however we can also help you to draw up a plan during the mediation sessions if preferred.

Preparing your Parenting Plan

You can make your Parenting Plan as detailed as you like, but it is a good idea to try to draw it up in sections first and start on a workable short-term plan as this will provide the foundations in which you can build your perfect Plan as discussions get underway and agreements are made between you.

Consider these sections to begin with:

  • Our Children
  • The Parents
  • The Payments
  • Our Promise

Start by having a relaxed discussion with your child/children in quiet surroundings so they are not easily distracted. Ask your child how they feel about the separation, if they are worried about anything. Try not to jump in too quickly with explanations, let your child express their feelings in their own way. It’s important during this time to put any negative feelings about your partner aside so as not to influence your child’s responses in any way.

Once you have a clear understanding on your child’s current feelings, write down how you feel at the current time. Sometimes writing down your thoughts and feelings can help to give a different perspective on things.

Now write down some questions under each category heading. You may already know the answers to some questions, and if both parties are in agreement, convert it into a statement that you agree to abide by.

Here are some examples to get you started:

Our Children
1. What are the core needs of our child/children?
2. Who can best respond to these needs?
3. How will the children spend time with each of us?
4. What contact will they have with the other when they are staying with either one of us?
5. How will the children get from one house to another?
6. What toys/personal belongings will be at each property?
7. What happens at birthdays/Christmas/family occasions?
8. Do we agree on immunisations?
9. How do we manage school parents evening and school events?
10. Who will the children spend their holidays with?

The Parents
1. Who is to be the main carer?
2. How will we communicate with each other if the child is sick?
3. How do we maintain and agree boundaries and rules to keep our children safe and happy?
4. Who else can look after our children?
5. Who is responsible for the child’s education and decisions on future education?
6. Should the school be informed and a request sent for them to send reports, etc to each of us?
7. How many times per month should the other parent be able to see the children?
8. How many overnight stays per month can the children have with the other parent?
9. Does the other parent still have access to the marital home and the freedom to let themselves in whenever they choose?
10. What decisions should both parents make, and what decisions can be made by the main carer only?

The Payments
1. How much money do we spend on our children/child each year? Include food, clothing, entertainment, holidays and hobbies/pastimes.
2. How are we going to meet the financial needs of our children?
3. Who is going to pay the mortgage/outstanding debts, bills etc?
4. How are we going to pay for childcare?
5. Are either of us going to give our children pocket money, and how much?
6. How often will the financial agreement need to be reviewed?
7. What action will be taken if maintenance payments are late or don’t arrive?

Our Promise
The Parenting Plan Promise should briefly outline your promises to each other and your children to demonstrate what you, as parents, accept responsibility for. You should both sign and date the promise.

For further information on how to complete a Parenting Plan, please download the CAFCASS Parenting Document here >> Cafcass Parenting Plan

Watson & Thomas Solicitors are specialists in family law. If you would like further information on our family mediation services or require legal advice on your separation or divorce, please submit your details and we'll arrange a free, no obligation callback at a time to suit you.