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What Should You Look For in a Good Parenting Agreement Template?

If you have children, and are seeking separation from your spouse or going through a divorce, you may be looking for a Parenting Agreement template. A Parenting Agreement (or parenting plan) provides guidelines on how you will handle the day to day raising of your children once you are no longer living together.

A Parenting Agreement is different from a Custody Agreement. While previous versions of the Divorce Act placed an emphasis on custody and access, Parenting Agreements or Parenting Plans focus on how you will provide for the welfare of your children.

The Best Interests of the Child

With all the decisions you must make regarding your children, family law places an emphasis on the best interests of the child.

If both parents can work together towards that goal, perhaps with the assistance of professional advisors like lawyers or mediators, you can create a strong plan to support your child and assist towards healthy communication regarding your child’s needs. However, it’s not always possible for parents to work together.

Getting Started

There are a couple of approaches you can take, working on your own or with support from your lawyer or mediator:

  • Working together – both parents work together to develop a parent plan draft, each providing their feedback into the plan. This approach allows both parents to openly discuss their child’s needs and how they will meet them together.
  • Working separately – each parent drafts their own parent plan, exchanges them, then incorporates the strengths of each plan into the final draft. This approach is beneficial to parents who are having trouble communicating directly, but both are engaged in building the plan.
  • Working alone – in some cases, one parent may be unwilling or unable to fully participate in the creation of a parenting plan draft. One parent creating the draft can be a good first step to reaching an agreement. However, a parenting plan created by one parent is not binding on the other.

If you’re not sure where to start, an online parenting agreement template like the Parenting Plan Guide and Template produced by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) provides an ideal starting point.

Online Parenting Agreement Templates

Just like with a will, there are many Parenting Agreement templates and advice available online. These Parenting Agreement templates can help you understand what decisions need to be made and what questions you may need to ask.

However, also just like a will, it is recommended you seek advice from your lawyer in creating a final document. No template can cover every situation. Your relationship with your family, your living arrangements, your children, your financial situation, your life is unique, and your Parenting Agreement needs to cover your unique circumstances.

Since family law requirements can vary between countries and provinces, make sure the template is relevant to the laws in your area.

The AFCC parenting agreement template was developed collaboratively by many members of the AFCC-Ontario Chapter, lawyers and other professionals with support from the Law Foundation of Ontario.

Parenting Agreement Checklist

A great resource is the Government of Canada Family Law site. It contains a comprehensive section with a Parenting Plan Checklist.

As a starting point, a good Parenting Agreement template should cover:

  • Communication
    What critical information do you need to communicate regularly? What will be your regular check-in scheduled and how will you communicate (email, phone, face-to-face)? What about emergency communication? Do you need a schedule or are you comfortable with ad-hoc communication?
  • Parenting time and child care
    Where will the children live? If you’re splitting time, how will it work? What are your transportation arrangements for moving between residences, picking up from school, etc.? What about daycare / after school care and babysitting – are there any concerns, and who is responsible for the costs? Are there any rules or schedules that need to be followed?
  • Extra-curricular activities
    How will you communicate about and manage the child’s extra-curricular activities and social life (e.g., sports, school outings, friends’ birthdays) – who is responsible for managing the activities and payments?
  • Visits with extended family
    How close are you with your extended family? Do you need to include stipulations for visits with uncles/aunts/grandparents? Do you have any reservations regarding these visits?
  • Vacations & Holidays
    How will you manage holiday time, especially traditional family holidays like Thanksgiving? What about school holidays and summer vacation?
  • Notifications for Travel / Moving
    Good Parenting Agreement templates should cover travel, especially travel outside the country, or moving anywhere that will make it difficult for the other parent to visit.
  • Education
    Do you have views on choices of schools to attend? Who receives school reports and notifications? Who attends school teacher conferences, who is informed of any issues at school, and who is allowed to take the child out of school? Have you made arrangements for costs, including college or university?
  • Medical
    Look for Parenting Agreement templates that also detail medical needs, like who will be responsible for medical decisions / insurance and emergency medical decisions. This can be especially important if your child has a serious or chronic medical condition.

No document can cover every situation, but a solidly built, legally-sound Parenting Agreement can help you anticipate and minimize pain points, and build a solid foundation for your relationship with your children.

Need Help Creating a Parenting Agreement? Contact Kelly D. Jordan Family Law Firm

Whether you’ve started with an online Parenting Agreement template and need help adapting it for your situation, or you wish to consult with a lawyer to get the process started, we can help. Our team of experienced family law experts will listen, consider your needs, and help you build a plan to protect your children and your future. Get started online, or contact our offices today.

Government of Canada: Parenting Plan Checklist: Information to help you get started

Association of Family and Conciliation Courts – Ontario Chapter: Parenting Plan Guide and Template