A Parenting Plan is part of a separation agreement when parents divorce or separate.

A Parenting Plan sets out the schedule and protocols for the living arrangements of children with separated parents. It allows parents to avoid future
conflicts arising from a lack of guidelines in dealing with responsibilities relating to the children. Without specific agreements around these responsibilities disputes can arise and litigation may be needed to resolve these issues. When parents can not agree the court is then forced to make decisions about the children’s lives.

Whether you have just decided to separate or have been separated for some time, you and the other parent obviously need to think about and agree on arrangements about the children. Many children worry about what will happen to them when their parents split up, and it can be a big relief to them if the arrangements become clear and predictable.

Whatever you agree on about parenting arrangements doesn’t have to be written down, but if you do write it down, a parenting plan is a good way to do it. Agreements can be made in various ways, through a mediation process or for example, face-to-face, by telephone or by email.
2) If the co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights in respect of a child are experiencing difficulties in exercising their responsibilities and rights, those persons, before seeking the intervention of a court, must first seek to agree on a parenting plan determinging the exercise of their respective responsibilities and rights in respect of the child.
(5) In preparing a parenting plan as contemplated in subsection (2) the parties must seek -
(a) the assistance of a family advocate, social worker or psychoologist; or
(b) mediation through a social worker or other suitably qualified person.
A Parenting Plan is an agreement that separated parents make about how their children will be cared for and supported. Preparing one yourselves means that you get to make your own decisions that suit your own circumstances.

Agreeing about how things that affect your children are going to be organised, as straightforwardly as possible, will be good for your children and is likely to save arguments or misunderstandings along the way.

The best interests of your children are the most important thing for you to think about when you make an agreement.

Section 7 of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005 sets out all the factors that should be taken into account when determining the best interest of the Child.

This principle should always be adhered to when making any decisions relating to or affecting children.

A parenting plan can include anything that parents need to agree on about their children. The plan can be changed at any time with the agreement of both parents.
If you want your parenting agreement to be recognised by law as a Parenting Plan it must be developed in a particular way. It needs to be written down, dated and signed by both of you.
A Parenting Plan may address some or all of the following topics:

- Parenting Time (primary residency and contact)
- Decision Making
- Transportation and Exchanges
- Annual Holidays and long weekends
- Maintenance
- A Dispute Resolution Process
- Schools Attended and Access to Records
- Physical and Mental Health Care
- Contact Information, Relocation and Foreign Travel
- Social Activities and School functions
- Overnights and Contact
- Communications and Mutual Decision-Making
- Mediation
- Medical Aid and Related Expenses
- Contact with Relatives and Significant Others
- Wills and Guardianship

Good parenting isn’t a contest. Parents can take a different, more child-friendly approach to both legal negotiations and the child-rearing agreements they construct.
The challenging task of devising a parenting plan is a beneficial process whereby a legal agreement is formulated which spells out a clear, specific schedule for children as well as guidelines for each parent’s co-parenting responsibilities and role in decision making.

From the beginning of your consideration of alternative parenting plans, you need to recognize several key issues.

- There is no single ideal schedule for contact and residency, traditional every other weekend visitation, “bird nesting” (where the children stay in one place and the parents move back and forth), or the hundreds of variations in between. All of these arrangements can work, or none of them can. Making your parenting plan work depends upon you, your ex, and your co-parenting relationship.

- Neither judges nor psychologists possess special wisdom or mysterious tests that can tell you what is best for your children. Seasoned experts will tell you that you, the parents, are in the best position, by far, to make these decisions. And if you don’t agree, you need try again, be flexible, make some compromises, and create parenting plan that will work for your children. Remember: This is about your responsibilities as a parent, not your “rights.”

- View time with your children in terms months and years not just hours, days and weeks. Your parenting plan can be a “living agreement”, one that you are likely to alter as your children grow older and your family circumstances change. After all, what you decide for a 2 year old may not be best for her when she’s 14 (or 4 or 7). And you probably want to experiment with your ideas about a schedule a bit now. Why? So you can see how your child reacts to a schedule instead of guessing what will or won’t work. If you are willing to experiment a bit, you can make changes as needed to create an even better schedule for your children.
- Different schedules work better for children of different ages. That’s why outlined alternatives according to the age of your children are attached below. In general, younger children benefit from having more of a “home base.” School aged children can manage more complicated schedules – as long as the parents can help them negotiate the complications. And you need to consider a third schedule for teenagers: Their own.

- If you have more than one child, this creates both opportunities and complications. For example, a younger child may be able to handle more complicated schedules if she is moving back and forth with the added security of siblings. On the other hand, your 16 year old teenager may rebel about a week to week schedule, even though the plan is working fine for his 9 year old brother.

- Most importantly, your divorce style – your co-parenting partnership – is critical to making any parenting plan work. Below you will see different schedules for parents with a cooperative, distant, or an angry divorce. Note that you have many more options for children of a given age – and over time – if you can to develop cooperative, businesslike relationship with your children’s other parent.

- Finally, remember that these schedules are intended as examples. The goal is to help you to think creatively (and concretely) about your parenting plan while considering the best options for your family.

 

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