The parenting plan or parenting agreement is the most important document that parents will create. It is a legal document with the complete force of the law behind it when it is filed with the court. It is also a legally binding document that is required by the courts.
The mediator’s role is to help parents develop a parenting plan that is as fair as it can be to both parties. The parenting plan will cover numerous items, and can be a few pages in duration, or, in some instances, up to twenty pages in length. With the assistance of the mediator, the parties will discuss and allocate fair and equitable parenting time with the children for both parties, as well as the allocation of parental responsibilities for the children. The parties will also set forth the children’s residence address for the purposes of school enrollment, and which parent will be designated as the parent with the majority of the parenting time with the minor children for the purposes of child support. The mediator’s role is to assist the parents in examining all the decisions they need to incorporate in a parenting plan and to help the parents in sharing the information necessary to make informed decisions.
When parents are confronting a divorce, they are required to cover parental duties and privileges that now need to be examined individually. When parents are going through a divorce (and this also applies to unmarried parents), they are required to analyze parental responsibilities and future matters involving their child(ren) that would have occurred over several years had they remained married or together.
It is not unusual for parents to be quite surprised at how time consuming and emotionally draining the working out of a parenting plan can be. This is a key reason why parents choose to use mediation early in their negotiation. The mediator’s role is to supply the format that includes the questions, information gathering, and sharing that allows the parents to establish a parenting plan that meets their needs.
When parents complete the long and demanding process of a parenting plan, they have a document that they can be proud of. The parenting plan sets forth a commitment to the family, the child(ren)’s needs, and establishes a family continuity for both the parents and their child(ren). It is not unusual for parents to allow their child(ren) to read the parenting plan. The parenting plan is written in simple language that can create a calming effect upon the child(ren) and establish a sense of security by showing that their parents are committed to working together on their future.