The Parenting Plan is the parties’ agreement regarding which parent will have the child. A good parenting plan clearly sets out where the child will be. (See Exhibit 1). In other words, if parents have a parenting plan, calendar and a watch, they know exactly where their children should be.
Under A.R.S. § 25-403.02, every parenting plan must have the following:
- A statement that legal decision-making is joint or sole. See A.R.S. § 25-401.
- Each parent’s rights and responsibilities for the personal care of the child and for decisions in areas such as education, health care and religious training.
- A schedule of the physical residence of the child, including holidays and school vacations.
- A procedure for exchanging the child. This should include the location of the exchange and who is responsible for transportation.
- A procedure by which proposed changes, disputes and alleged breaches may be mediated or resolved, which may include the use of conciliation services or private counseling.
- A procedure for periodic review of the plan’s terms by the parents.
- A communication plan, i.e., how the parents will communicate with each other regarding the child. This includes how they will communicate (usually, over phone, e-mail, or text message) and how frequently (commonly, this is once a week).
- A statement that each party has read, understands, and will abide by A.R.S. § 25-403.05(B). This requires a parent to immediately notify the other parent when a registered sex offender has access to the child. This notification must be made either by registered mail or email.
- A statement that the parties understand that joint decision-making does not necessarily mean equal parenting time.
Important Factors to Consider When Choosing a Plan
- The child’s age, maturity, temperament and strength of attachment to each parent.
- Any special needs of the child and parents.
- The child’s relationship with siblings and friends.
- The distance between the two households.
- The flexibility of both parents’ work schedules and the child’s schedule to accommodate extended access.
- Childcare arrangements and transportation needs.
- The ability of the parents to communicate and cooperate.
- The child’s and parents’ cultural and religious practices.
- A parent’s willingness to provide adequate supervision, even if the parent has not done so in the past.
- A parent’s ability and willingness to learn basic care-giving skills such as feeding, changing and bathing a young child, preparing a child for daycare or school or taking responsibility for helping a child with homework.
- A parent’s ability to care for the child’s needs
You need to decide how long each parent can spend uninterrupted with the children during the summer. Possibilities range anywhere from one week to the entire summer, if there is a non-primary residential parent (especially one who lives out of state and cannot see the children often during the year). It is a good idea to provide a deadline, such as May 1, in even-numbered years for parent number 1 to put in writing his vacation plans so there is no conflict, especially if there are work schedules, other family members, and airline tickets to consider.
It is important to recognize in writing that each parent must always allow reasonable telephone contact daily and always provide a written itinerary with emergency phone numbers, addresses, flight numbers and the like. All this should be in writing in your parenting agreement.
Holidays should be spelled out in your parenting agreement. Here is a short sample of holidays. You need to decide drop off and pick up times and when a day starts. Most parents agree that the receiving parent picks up.
Frequently, these plans will specify also the exchange times and locations for holidays (e.g., “The receiving parent will pick up the child from the other parent’s home at 6 p.m. on December 24th.”). Having set times for holiday exchanges can avoid a lot of confusion and parental conflict. A sample Holiday/Vacation schedule is included on the next page.
|Even Years||Odd Years|
|New Year’s Eve||Mother||Father|
|New Year’s Day||Father||Mother|
|Memorial Day Weekend||Mother||Father|
|Labor Day Weekend||Father||Mother|
|Child’s Birthday||Both parents||Both parents|