Reflective Mediation can assist couples to negotiate a Parenting Plan to ensure the best interests of the children are kept front and centre.  The Parenting Plan can be crafted as a document on its own, or included as part of a comprehensive Separation Agreement for those pursuing a divorce. 

What is a Parenting Plan?

A Parenting Plan, (or Parent Co-ordination or A Parallel Parenting Plan as it is sometimes called), is a document specifying child care arrangements that are agreed upon by parents in the process of separation or divorce.  

Couples who get along well do not require much detail other than to specify when the child(ren) will be with each parent.    High conflict parents require a more detailed Parenting Plan to minimize future disputes.

Why Are Parenting Plans Important?

It is essential to protect children by minimizing their exposure to ongoing conflict between their parents.  

In previous decades one parent often retained sole custody and access.  Recent studies have shown that children fare best when supported by both parents.  Parenting Plans are a way to ensure children have scheduled time with both parents, while reducing the need for day-to-day negotiation between the adults.

What Are the Main Items Covered in a Parenting Plan?

The plan will itemize what has been agreed in areas such as:

  • positive principles of co-parenting
  • access: the time-sharing schedule (both daily routines and detailed holiday schedules) 
  • custody: the allocation of decision-making responsibility, particularly in key areas of health, education and religion
  • protocols on communication between parents
  • protocols on communication with the children regarding the other parent
  • extracurricular events and activities 
  • allocation of payment for extra-curricular events and activities
  • emergency medical procedures
  • protocols around sickness and other unexpected changes in access schedule 
  • third party child-care arrangements
  • moving and relocation protocols
  • travel arrangements and permissions
  • annual review
  • impasse-breaking mechanisms

How Are Parenting Plans Created?

In most cases parents can agree well enough to work through these decisions in one or two mediation sessions.  Standard Parenting Plan templates can be offered, then adjusted in response to the suggestions of each client.  

In high-conflict cases, the process is more time consuming and may require the involvement of one or more of the other professionals on the Reflective Mediation team.

What Happens If One Person Doesn’t Follow The Plan?

In cases when one partner wishes to change the plan, or believes the other party is not following the plan, another mediation is scheduled. Each Parenting Plan includes a mechanism for resolving disputes, preferably through mediation. Other agencies such as Court, Children’s Aid or the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) can become involved if the couple is unable to reach a mediated agreement.