Developing a parenting plan is one of the most important things you and your spouse will do during your divorce. Having a thorough, well-written parenting plan in place can reduce confusion and conflict considerably for you and your children.

While parenting plans work best when parents can amicably communicate, by having a detailed plan outlining schedules and expectations for each parent, you can help minimize disruption to the kids during times when communication is strained. A parenting plan should address a number of issues, including the following:

Parenting Schedules

This includes everyday schedules that outline what days, evenings and weekends each parent has the children. Drop-off and pick-up responsibilities should be specified. However, you should also designate where children will spend holidays, vacation time and special occasions like birthdays.

It's also wise to designate how much notice one parent must give the other of a requested change to the schedule and of plans to travel with the kids. Some parents stipulate in their custody agreements that one or both parents cannot take a child out of state or abroad without the other's permission.

Expenses

You should detail how your children's expenses will be covered. This may be laid out in your child support agreement. However, you should spell out in the parenting plan what that support is intended to cover, and how payments for school costs, food, clothing, medical care and extracurricular activities will be divided.

There may be changes that will require parents to revisit their original agreement. Perhaps one parent wants to put a child in a more expensive school or let him or her take up a sport or other activity that requires expensive equipment and training.

Communication

You should designate how your children can communicate with the parent they're not with. In most cases, it's best if kids can communicate with both parents whenever and however they choose. Fortunately, parents and kids have a wide variety of ways to stay in touch these days, including video chatting, texting and good old-fashioned phone calls.

It's also wise to outline how parents will communicate with one another. Fortunately, there are plenty of apps available to help parents remain in touch regarding their kids' schedules and issues with a minimum of personal interaction.

Decision-Making

The custody agreement will also detail which parent(s) can make decisions regarding their children's schooling, medical care, religious training and other important aspects of their lives. That determination should also be outlined in the parenting plan.

Experienced family law attorneys help couples work out a parenting plan that helps them move forward as strong co-parents to their children.