Considerations when developing a parenting plan
Shared Parenting Arrangement - things to consider
By David Cannon
27 January 1997
A written Shared Parenting agreement may be helpful in setting the stage for a successful co-parenting relationship.
The following items are matters you should consider in planning your agreement. Because individuals' lives and children's developmental needs continually change, an agreement must be flexible and allow room for adjustment.
1. A definition of Shared Parenting
It is the intention of parents who agree to Shared Parenting that each of them shall continue to have a full and active role in providing a sound social, economic, educational and moral environment for their children. Parents need to consult with one another on substantial questions relating to educational programs, religious upbringing, significant changes in social environment, and health care. Parents need to exert their best efforts to work co-operatively in making plans consistent with the best interests of the children and in amicably resolving disputes as they arise.
2. Residential considerations
Specific periods of time with a given parent may need to be defined. Shared Parenting, in and of itself, does not determine the amount of time a child spends with either parent, but does imply that a child has access to each parent for enough time to allow the relationship to be meaningful and not superficial. Some children alternate between parents' homes on an equal time basis. Other families have a more traditional arrangement where children spend the week with one parent and weekends with the other parent. Children's ages and school situations, as well as parents' employment and availability must be considered in planning an appropriate physical custody arrangement.
3. Parental responsibility
When the children are in the actual physical custody of a parent, that parent shall have the responsibility for seeing that the minor children are fed and cared for properly and taken to school. That parent shall take responsibility for meeting medical and dental emergencies.
4. Financial arrangements
Parents will need to arrange for the financial support of the children. Some parents agree to share this equally while others may pay the costs as they arise and pro-rata more substantial costs such as medical, school and clothing, according to income. Parents may agree to contribute money on a pro-rata basis into an account which is used to provide this support for the children. Other Shared Parenting families provide regular support payments to each other according to the amount of time a child spends with them and in proportion to their income.
5. Tax deductions
Parents may choose to split the tax deductions between them if there is more than one child, alternate the deductions on a yearly basis, or grant the tax deduction to the parent having the children for the greater amount of time. Your lawyer can provide information about these tax consequences.
6. School year provision
Parents may wish to agree that the children remain in the same school for that school year, to allow for continuity, or that they will negotiate the residence of the child before the up-coming school year.
Parents may provide for taking the children on vacations or for the children to be with the other parent when one parent is on vacation.
Parents may share insurance costs or designate a parent who will provide comprehensive health and medical insurance and name the children as beneficiaries of life insurance.
9. Medical needs
The parent having actual physical custody of the children at any point in time shall take responsibility for meeting medical and dental emergencies.
Both parents need to discuss the general health care needs of the children and to advice each other of illnesses and treatment requirements.
10. Relocation of residence
If either parent desires to move out of the area, the parents should discuss this in advance and adjust the Shared Parenting agreement accordingly.
Geographic separation does not preclude Shared Parenting, but it does necessitate changes in how the children spend time with each parent, and day-to-day decision making.
11. Conflict resolution
Conflict is natural and normal. It occurs in families that live together and it is going to occur in divorced families.
It is helpful to provide a method for resolving conflict before it occurs. Parents may wish to agree on an individual or an agency that will assist them in resolving disputes rather than in turning to the courts or abandoning the Shared Parenting arrangement.
Should an issue need to be resolved by a judge, it is helpful to have designated the location of the court having jurisdiction.
12. Adjusting the agreement
A Shared Parenting agreement should be flexible, to allow for the changing needs of both children and parents. Parents may wish to include a provision that the Shared Parenting agreement be reviewed on a periodic basis and that the agreement can be changed with the consent of both parents.
(Adapted from the leaflet 'Joint Custody' published by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts.)