What is a Parenting Plan in Massachusetts?

A parenting plan is a document referencing how you and your spouse can parent your child during and after a divorce. Sometimes called a parenting agreement, a parenting plan helps to avoid parental disputes and other conflicts that commonly arise during a divorce.

As part of a separation agreement, the parenting plan can be legally enforced to help both parties ensure that the children are taken care of within the agreed-upon terms.

We understand that determining custody and a parenting plan can be one of the most sensitive topics in divorce, so it’s imperative that you work with an experienced attorney who can ensure that you get it accurate and reasonable on the first attempt.

Physical Custody

One of the first significant parts of the parenting plan determines who will have physical custody of the child or children. Sole custody means that one parent typically handles the children’s day-to-day activities, and the children reside with them full-time while the other parent receives visitation at set times. Shared physical custody can mean the children go back and forth between households on agreed-upon schedules.

It’s important to note that if there are multiple children in the household, they may require different schedules or needs, and those needs may change as the children mature. All of this must be carefully reviewed to anticipate necessary changes in the future and how they may be handled.

Legal Custody

Legal custody refers to decisions regarding the child’s education, non-emergent healthcare needs, and more. Parents can also opt to include decisions regarding things such as religious affiliations, sports, and other extracurricular activities.

Legal custody can be shared, and if so, the parents will need to determine what decisions one parent can make without consulting the other parent. In some cases, one parent will have full legal custody and be able to make decisions without consulting the other to help streamline parenting decisions as they arise rather than having a time-consuming decision process with day-to-day needs or questions.

Items to Include in a Parenting Plan

Several items are helpful to stipulate in a parenting plan to encourage continuity for the children and avoid conflicts between the parents in the future.

Initial Schedule – parents will need to determine the initial schedule, which days or weeks the children will spend with which parent, and how the schedule will rotate throughout the year.

Exchange – how and when will the parents exchange the children? Will immediate family members be allowed to assist in exchanging the children when they are transported to the other parent? Where will the exchanges take place? Is this a set location not to be deviated from, or can it be fluid?

Birthdays and essential holidays – what schedule works for both parents and in the children’s best interest? Considerations may be setting up a schedule that allows one year for the child to be at one parent’s house on their birthday and rotate to the other the following year. Alternatively, they may let the parenting schedule dictate which parent will spend the birthday with the child. What holidays are important to both parents, and how will they be evenly shared between parties? Parents will need to decide what is fair and what is best for their children.

Other Items to Consider

Vacation schedules – should either parent wish to take their children on vacation, what does this look like? Will the vacation need to be during regularly scheduled parenting time? What options are there to plan a vacation for either household?

Childcare – who is in charge of childcare when both parents can’t be there? Is there a chosen daycare provider or babysitter that both parents will need to agree on, or is it left to the decision of one parent or the other?

How Are Expenses Handled?

Another essential aspect to consider is how both parties will handle the children’s expenses. Common examples include medical bills, school clothes, extracurricular activity costs, cell phones, and more.

Understanding in advance which costs each parent is responsible for can help alleviate confusion and conflict moving forward, making the day-to-day lives of the children and all involved less stressful.

Is Relocation an Option?

Each parent can stipulate what rules to follow when choosing to relocate. Examples can include how much notice each parent must receive before a move takes place or how far away the other parent can move so as not to interrupt the parenting plan unreasonably.

New Partners

Each party can include how and when other partners will be introduced to their children. Is there a set amount of time that the new partner is in the picture before they meet the children? Is the other partner required to meet the new partner before the children do?

These important questions can be considered and stipulated within the parenting plan to help provide a solid and predictable future for the children involved.

Your Pride and Joy

It goes without saying that planning for our children’s future is of the utmost importance to both parties involved in a divorce. When faced with uncertainty, it helps to be very specific about your needs and wants and the children’s best interests to create a realistic plan that works for both parties.

We have several years of experience working with parents and helping them protect their children’s futures. We are fierce advocates for you so that you can remain powerful advocates for them.

We understand this chapter of your life can be trying, but with the proper steps in place, it can be a streamlined process with limited conflict that can lead you to the next chapter of your life and allow you to get back to focusing on your children.

Call us at (781) 531-8673 today to learn more.