Family court lawyers are often asked for help to create a parenting plan. When a couple with children separate or divorce, the welfare of their children is a top priority. If this is you, you may be looking for a parenting plan example to help guide your future decisions.

A good parenting plan example is a great place to start. Parenting plans can be complicated and creating one can be emotional. You can get parenting plan examples and advice online or from family court lawyers.

If you look for advice online, however, make sure it’s from a reputable source. It’s a good idea to have a skilled family law attorney look over any plan – they have years of practical experience you can draw from.

What is a Parenting Plan?

You may think a parenting plan is a custody plan or parenting time guidelines. And that’s part of it. But in reality, a parenting plan is much more comprehensive – it covers your child’s education, health matters and how you will communicate regarding your children. You can read more about it in our blog, Approaching a Divorce: Parenting Plan Examples.

In this blog, we’re going to specifically discuss parenting time and what your child might need at various stages of development.

Your Child’s Needs Change over Time

Every child, and each family, is different, so your plan will need to cover your unique situation. Discussing this with family court lawyers can help ensure your child’s needs are met at any age.

Positive communication between parents is critical at every stage. Consider carefully how you will communicate with each other.

Note that a history of family violence or safety concerns will change any parenting time guidelines.

Infants (birth – 12 months)

Infants have shorter memory spans. They need repetition, regularity, and routing.

Consider a schedule that provides your child with:

  • Consistency, regularity, and contact with each parent at least every few days.
  • Overnight parenting with both parents, provided both parents are comfortable and able to provide basic infant care.

Toddlers (1-3 years old)

Toddlers are beginning to learn to be independent, expanding their activities, and exploring new emotions.

Like infants, a consistent schedule with contact between both parents is important. You should also consider:

  • Longer overnight periods (2 days or more) as the toddler grows older.
  • How you will handle life events, such as birthdays, preschool activities, religious events.

Young Children (3-5 years old)

Children are becoming more independent and are becoming more exposed to the world around them. They may begin to notice differences between other children and themselves, and may ask questions about your divorce. As their world expands, they may also develop new fears and anxieties (like “monsters” under the bed).

Be prepared to answer a lot of questions, and help introduce your child to new situations in a safe environment to calm their fears.

  • Predictability and stability are critical in these years.
  • Consider extending overnight time up to one week if your situation allows.
  • Regular phone time/video chatting between visits to reassure the child that both parents are invested in their lives.

Elementary & Middle School (5-14 years old)

Attending school allows children to explore new relationships and build friendships with their classmates. They may also become involved in sports and extra-curricular school activities. Look for a parenting plan example that provides guidance on how to coordinate appointments and activities. Try to keep your communication child-focused and positive.

Try to:

  • Limit transitions to provide stability for school.
  • Communicate how you will prioritize homework and extracurricular activities.
  • Provide regular contact with your child’s friends, building in more flexibility as the child grows older.
  • Ensure the school is informed of changes with your parenting schedules.
  • Determine how school holidays and vacation time will be split.

Teenagers / High School (14-18 years old)

Your children will become more independent, and as they mature, they will be faced with more complex decisions. Providing stability and consistent communication is important to help our children develop and make good decisions. They will be increasingly affected by their peer group and may not make decisions you agree with.

Older teens might develop a preference for one parent over the other.

  • Provide a flexible schedule for school, sports, and friendships with enough structure to ensure their safety.
  • Communicate regularly with each other about your child’s whereabouts and wellbeing.
  • Encourage time with both parents, even if a teenager expresses a desire to not spend time with a parent.

Parenting Plan: There are No Easy Answers – Family Court Lawyers Can Help

There is no “right” way to raise your child. Together or apart, as a family you will support your children in the best way for you. Talking to your children about divorce is a critical first step. Finding agreement on how you will raise your children is a lifelong job.

If you are looking for a parenting plan example, or want help creating a parenting plan, custody agreement and parenting time plan, talk to family lawyer, Stephanie Krane-Boehmer. She can help guide you through all aspects of family law to help protect you and your family. Reach out to Stephanie today.

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Michigan Parenting Time Guideline from the Michigan Courts website