Create a Parenting Plan: Key Components to Include in Ontario

November 13, 2023
November 13, 2023 Plat Simionati

Create a Parenting Plan: Key Components to Include in Ontario

Disclaimer: This article aims to provide educational information surrounding creating a parenting plan. It is not intended to serve as legal advice. Consult with a lawyer and exercise your discretion before taking action based on the information provided in the blog. 

During a divorce or separation, especially when children are involved, it’s crucial to prioritize their well-being and ensure a smooth transition for all parties. A well-structured parenting plan is an essential tool that can help co-parents navigate this challenging phase effectively.

In this guide, we will delve into the purpose of a parenting plan, its numerous benefits, and the essential elements that should be included to create a comprehensive and effective plan. For the purposes of this article, we will assume that both parents have joint decision-making responsibility. 

Of course, every family has unique challenges and priorities to consider. Your plan for parenting after your separation or divorce may be materially different than someone else’s. That is why it is prudent to discuss your parenting plan with a family lawyer. At Plat Simionati, our experience has covered many parenting issues, and we are here to help you get started. 

What is a parenting plan? 

A parenting plan is a written document between parents outlining the arrangements for raising their children post-separation or divorce. While it doesn’t need to be overwhelmed with legal terminology, it does encompass critical legal concepts such as decision making, parenting time, and parenting arrangements.

Once finalized, your parenting plan will typically be included in the court’s parenting order unless the court determines that the parenting plan does not reflect the best interests of the child (section 28(7) of The Children’s Law Reform Act and section 16.6(1) of the Divorce Act).

Why should you create a parenting plan? 

Making a parenting plan is an incredibly beneficial process with many advantages. Documenting how you want to make parenting decisions reduces stress and helps you feel confident parenting after separation and divorce. 

Firstly, it reduces tension by prompting both parents to consider various scenarios proactively. As they say, the best defence is a good offense. Thinking ahead and exercising foresight can greatly diminish future tension and minimize conflicts. Logically, by planning for various scenarios, you avoid heading to court, which can be emotionally taxing and unpredictable. 

Remember: The Best Interests of the Child

Above all else, when constructing a parenting plan, it is paramount to keep the best interests of the child at the forefront of your decision-making. Your plan should prioritize the child’s well-being, safety, and emotional development while maintaining a stable, loving environment. Keeping that focus at the forefront can help you develop a personalized parenting plan that ensures their happiness and stability during a challenging time.

What to include in a parenting plan

Constructing a parenting plan is a balancing act. On the one hand, you need to set clear guidelines. However, it must also reflect the realities of day-to-day living and have the flexibility to adapt to those challenges. Below is a list of items you may want to include in your parenting plan. It is not exhaustive but will give you a good starting point.

Living Arrangements and Parenting Schedules

Every parenting plan should include information on living arrangements and parenting time schedules. For example, how will parenting time be divided? How much time will the child spend living with each parent? How will pick-ups and drop-offs be arranged? What kind of childcare arrangements will you put in place? Where will the child’s belongings be kept?  How often will you and your co-parent communicate with the children when you’re not with them? 

All of these questions should be answered in your parenting plan. 

Communication Between Parents and Handling Changes 

Determine how you are going to communicate with your co-parent about your child. This can include phone, email, or other means. We noted earlier that your parenting plan needs to be flexible to accommodate changes. How will you propose and communicate changes to your schedule? How will you make important decisions like those outlined below (i.e., health, education, discipline, etc.)? 

As your child grows, changes to the parenting plan may become necessary. Will you work with a mediator to change your parenting agreement? 

Vacations, Holidays, and Special Occasions

 Plan how you’ll share time with your children during holidays, vacations, and special occasions, including birthdays, weddings and other significant events. Are there provisions in place for either parent to travel with the children? 

Health Care

It is wise to come up with a plan on how decisions about non-emergency and emergency medical treatments will be made. 

Education and Extracurricular Activities 

Decide on the child’s school and how ongoing educational decisions will be made. This can include determining who will be the primary emergency contact for the school and choosing who can pick up the children from school.  

Specify which activities the child will participate in and how they’ll be financed. Determine how parents will facilitate the child’s involvement and address safety requirements. For example, some parents have provisions that one parent cannot register for extracurricular activities during the other parent’s scheduled parenting time. This would also include how to divide the costs related to these activities. 

Religion, Culture, Discipline and Lifestyle Expectations 

This part of the plan allows parents to discuss and define the values, beliefs, and cultural practices they intend to instill in their children. It provides a framework for how religious or cultural influences will be integrated into the child’s life. 

Moreover, it offers an opportunity to establish rules and expectations regarding discipline, bedtime routines, dietary choices, and other aspects of daily life.  Again, consider your values and priorities. It can include anything from screen time, social media use and appearance changes, such as piercing the child’s ears. 

How to handle disagreements 

While a parenting plan helps to minimize disagreements, it rarely eliminates them. How do you want to handle any disputes that may arise? Many plans mandate that you seek mediation or another dispute resolution process before going to court. 

Make your parenting plan a success with Plat Simionati LLP 

When making decisions about your parenting plan, turn to the dedicated professionals at Plat Simionati LLP. Not only are we well-versed in Ontario family law, including the latest case law, but we can also provide mediation and collaborative family law services. 

We’re passionate about helping you create a plan that truly reflects your family’s needs and are committed to making the process as smooth as possible. At Plat Simionati LLP, we’re here to support you on this journey every step of the way. Reach out to our team today!