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What is a Parenting Plan? What is the best Parenting Plan for my children?

A Parenting Plan is a comprehensive agreement which sets out both the time that children will spend with each parent as well as the rights and obligations of each parent to the children and the other parent during their parenting time. It can include a holiday visitation schedule, pick-up and drop-off locations, and even agreements relating to what will happen if one of the children becomes ill. Parenting Plans are necessary when two parents live apart (whether because they were never married, are divorced, getting divorced, or simply choosing to live separate and apart).

Parenting Plans can be made specific in instances where it is necessary to prevent future conflict, and they can be made flexible so that you and the other parent can make agreements outside of the parenting plan in unforeseen circumstances.

The best Parenting Plan for each family will depend on the ages of the children in that family,the schedules of both the parents and the children, the relative parenting abilities of each parent, any special needs of the children, and the family's traditions. Many people have trouble figuring out where to start in creating a parenting plan and in order to assist separate parents, the Massachusetts Courts asked a a Task Force of judges, lawyers, probation officers and mental health professionals to provide Model Parenting Plans. The Plans are available on the Massachusetts Courts website and although not mandatory or presumptive they can be helpful in designing a Parenting Plan that reflects the ages of the children and the relative involvement of each parent. While these schedules may not work for every family, they are instructive as to what many experts believe are the types of schedules most likely to encourage positive child development.

When considering the best Parenting Plan for their family, we encourage our clients to review these Model Parenting Plans as well as the guide: Planning for Shared Parenting: A Guide for Parents Living Apart.

Thank you to Fern Frolin of Grindle, Robinson, GoodHue & Frolin for bringing this latest news to our attention in her presentation at the MCFM Family Mediation Institute on November, 22, 2010.

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