Writing a parenting plan

If you're going through divorce or dissolution, here's how to suggest a parenting plan that meets your family's needs.

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If you have minor children, you will need to propose an arrangement to take care of them as part of your divorce or dissolution process. In order to do that, you will need to:

What paperwork do you need?

The way you file a parenting plan with the court will depend on the way you're ending your marriage:

  • If you're getting a dissolution, you will write up a parenting plan together with your spouse and file it with your marriage dissolution paperwork.
  • If you're getting a divorce, you can file a request for "temporary orders" to define what will happen with your child while the divorce is in process. If you and your spouse both agree, you can write up your agreed plan in your request for temporary orders. If you don’t agree with your spouse, they can file their own request for temporary orders and the court will decide.
  • If you and your spouse can’t agree on custody and visitation issues, you may want to consider getting a lawyer. Custody cases can be very complicated and a lawyer can help you navigate the process.

Start with your county's standard parenting time schedule

Each county’s court has created a standard parenting time schedule that shows when a child has time with each parent. Start by looking at your county’s standard parenting time schedule. If the standard works for you and your family, you can ask for that.

If it does not work for you, then it may be easier to create your parenting plan by making changes to the standard order instead of starting from nothing. That way you can make sure you consider everything the court will need to cover in its final order.

Cover important questions for the court

The court has standard questions that they think through for each custody case. If you and your spouse disagree, or if you want a plan that's less typical, it's useful to address each of these questions in your plan. The important questions to cover are:  

  • Have the child’s wishes (if they are old enough) and relationships with parents, siblings and other family members been taken into account?
  • Will the plan disrupt the child’s school life or involvement with their community?
  • Are the parents mentally and physically healthy? 
  • Does either parent or a member of their household have a criminal past?
  • Is each parent committed to the plan, at least for now? 
  • Does either parent live outside of the state or have any plans to move?
  • How will the children be supported financially?

What if you and your spouse disagree?

If you and your spouse submit different requests for custody and visitation through temporary orders, the court will decide between them based on the best interests of the child. 

If you are suggesting anything other than the standard parenting time schedule, it's not enough to simply detail what you would like to happen. Write out the reasons why your plan is fair and in the best interests of the child. 

If you're suggesting less parenting time than the standard schedule, explain why. For example:

  • If one spouse does not have stable housing for the children
  • If there are safety issues
  • If you live far apart from your spouse
  • If the child has extracurricular activities that conflict with the standard schedule 

If you're suggesting more than the standard parenting time schedule or shared parenting, it's important to show that the reason you are getting divorced won’t cause a problem with this plan. You will also have to show that it makes practical sense for the child — for example, your spouse is only moving 5 miles away and not 50.

Attach any documentation that supports your plan to your request for temporary orders. 

The court might decide to hold a hearing to get more information. The temporary orders will govern the parenting arrangement until the final divorce is granted. 

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