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What is a parenting plan agreement?

A parenting agreement is a written document outlining how children will be raised by parents after a separation or divorce. The plan is designed with the best interest of the child in mind and helps to keep environments and schedules structured during times of upheaval.

The document is a written out agreement between parents for scheduled time with the child, decision making processes and division of expenses for the child.

The plan can help when friction exists between parents because it sets an expectation to be met. Children also do well knowing the specifics of a new routine and environment, predictability leads to sooner adaptation and less push back.

Is it legally binding?

Missouri requires parents to submit a parenting plan within 30 days after filing for divorce. The proposed plan must include the items listed below. If parents cannot agree to a plan a court will order a temporary plan.

Scheduling: You must have a written schedule detailing custody, visitation, and residential time for each child with each parent. The plan should include scheduling for holidays, birthdays, vacations, weekends and weekdays, school vacations, and the times and places for the transfer of the child. The plan should also include an outline for how requests to variations of the schedule should be handled.

Legal custody: Your proposed plan must list how decision making rights and responsibilities will be shared. This includes decisions regarding education, medical, mental and dental health needs, extracurricular activities, and the selection of child care providers. It should also outline how disputes over these topics will be resolved.

Expenses: You must have a written proposal for how expenses for the child will be paid. This includes the costs for child care, educational and extracurricular activities, in addition to medical and dental insurance, both premiums and not covered expenses.

What else can be included?

This list above outlines the basics, but it can be helpful to include more detail about day to day parenting expectations. This will help parents create uniform boundaries and more structured environments for the child.

Daily routines: This can include things such as scheduled time for schoolwork, nap and bedtime routines, bath times, and set meal times.

Discipline: This can outline the rules, expected level of supervision, and appropriate forms of discipline.

Various considerations: It could be helpful to include details about religious preferences, time with extended family members, and new relationship boundaries.

When drafting a parenting agreement, try to set aside personal grievances and focus on the needs of the child. A successful plan will be structures but allow for modification as the needs of the child change.

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