Parenting Agreement: Steps to Create a Workable Parenting Plan

Last Updated on January 23, 2024 by Lori Pace

You’re likely feeling overwhelmed if you are going through a divorce or have children. It is crucial that you work with your spouse in order to reach a parenting agreement that is both mutually beneficial and works for your family.

Parents must communicate, regardless of how they feel about one another. You’ll be involved in your children’s lives for at most 18 years. If you don’t communicate, you have a long way before you can reach peace. A parenting plan can be a great way to reach the best possible arrangement for your family following a divorce. But where should you begin?

What Is a Parenting Agreement?

What Is a Parenting Agreement

A parenting agreement, also known as a parenting plan, is a document you and your ex-spouse make together that outlines how you will care for your children after separating. An agreement can help both parents to understand each other’s expectations and reduce conflict that often occurs during separation.

Every child needs stability, and divorce can cause chaos in any schedule. By providing children with a clear parenting plan, you can mitigate some of the negative effects associated with divorce. This will help to avoid the question “Where will I go today?”

Parenting plans are also known as co-parenting agreements or parenting time arrangements. It doesn’t matter what name you give it, it is something you should think about creating, even if the state doesn’t require it during a divorce.

What Should Parenting Agreement Include?

Every state has its own requirements for a parenting program. Each family is unique, so no parenting plan will be the same. You must also include information about how you will deal with the following:

  • Child custody
  • Visitation for the noncustodial parent or the child
  • Pick-up and Drop-Off Transportation
  • Medical care
  • Education requirements
  • Religious upbringing
  • Holidays,
  • Child support and other financial matters

Child Custody

Custody remains one of the most contentious issues in divorces. Custody shouldn’t be difficult if you are able to let go of your feelings about one another and prioritize the children. It is crucial to decide who will have physical custody. This means where the child will reside most of the day and who will care for them. If you are unable to decide who should be given physical custody, the court will make that decision for you using the best interests factors of your state. Remember that the judge does not know you and your family as well as you, so it is best for both parents to work together to create the best plan possible for the children.


After determining who will have physical custody of the child, you need to establish a parenting schedule (or visitation) for the noncustodial parent. Children will most benefit from having a consistent and regular relationship with both their parents. If the child only lives with one parent (the custodial), then you need to create a schedule that allows for visitation between them.

The child will typically visit the noncustodial parent during weekends and extended vacations (like spring break and summer) and split holidays. Children are used to seeing both their parents regularly so it is important to establish a schedule that minimizes disruption after divorce. It is important that your visitation agreement clearly outlines who is responsible for transporting the children during parenting time.

Legal Custody

The court will usually award the parents joint legal custody in most states. Legal custody allows both parents to voice their opinions on important decisions that affect your child’s life. This includes decisions regarding medical care, religion, education, and other matters. The parenting agreement should specify whether legal custody will be shared (awarded to one parent) or sole (awarded only to one parent). It also should describe what happens in the event that there is a dispute.

Child Support

Parenting Agreement Child Support

Child support can be tricky. Regardless of your custody, the law clearly states that your children have the right to financial support from both of their parents. The details of which parent will pay child maintenance and how much should be included in your parenting agreement. Your attorney can help you determine your child support obligation. Simply enter your income and your information into the child support formula in your state.

Will We Need An Attorney for the Parenting Agreement?

Not necessarily. It is possible to create a parenting plan with your spouse. Once you have put it in writing, you can submit the agreement to the court. You can join mediation if you are unable to resolve your issues on your terms. This is where a neutral third party will assist you in solving your problems in a confidential setting. If you’re not sure that mediation is right for you and can’t reach an agreement with your spouse, you should hire an attorney.

Remember that even though you and your spouse may agree on the terms of your agreement, you should still have an attorney review it before signing.

Steps to Take to Create a Parenting Agreement

Your ex-spouse and you need to start communicating. This is the first step in creating your parenting plan. If neither you nor your ex-spouse are willing to compromise for the benefit of your child, you won’t get anywhere. Put yourself in the shoes of your child. It’s not ideal to travel between two homes. This is especially true for school-aged children. Think about how your children will be treated by both of you before you make a decision on custody or visitation.

You should tell your attorney what you want and what sacrifices you are willing to make for your children. You should promptly provide all documents to your attorney, including payslips and tax returns.

Mediation is something you should approach with openness. But, more importantly, bring your work schedule and child’s schedule along with your ideal parenting plan. The mediator may also ask you to provide financial documents.

After you and your spouse have agreed on the terms of the parenting plan, you will need to submit a signed copy to court. Even though most courts agree that parents are the best judges, the court will still require you to sign the agreement for it to be valid.

What Will Happen If You Violate Any Provisions

Once signed by the judge, parent agreements become legally binding documents. This means that if you violate any of these provisions, you will be subject to fines and other penalties. You can modify a court order in your state if your arrangement is not working for you or you want to end it altogether. Talk to a local family law attorney if you have any questions about creating a parenting plan.

Lori Pace
Lori Pace

Lori Pace is a single mother of three daughters ages 7 and under. As a working mom from home, she balances kids, work and two crazy dogs with humor and love. Follow Lori as she honestly gives tips and advice based on her own experiences as a single mom!