FAQs About Parenting Plans

Q: What is a parenting plan?

A: Generally a parenting plan sets forth the terms of parents' physical and legal custody and financial support of a child.

Legal custody refers to decision-making regarding a child and can include many matters such as the choice or change of school, college, camp or other comparable summer activity, extracurricular activities, sex education, special tutoring, music, art, dance, and other cultural lessons, extent and place of travel away from home, part or full-time employment, purchase or operation of a motor vehicle, decisions regarding litigation on behalf of the child, psychological or psychiatric treatment or counseling, doctors, surgeons, and all other material decisions affecting the health, education and welfare of the child.

Physical custody refers to the time spent with each parent. A parent may be awarded sole physical custody. If so, that parent has much more time with the child. Parents awarded joint physical custody each have significant but not necessarily equal time with the child.


Q: What must be in a parenting plan?

A: At a minimum, the following must be included:

  1. A specific plan detailing physical time, visitation and residential time for each parent, including:
    • Major holidays;

    • School holidays;

    • The child's birthday;

    • Mother's Day;

    • Father's Day;

    • School vacations;

    • Transportation arrangements;

    • Times the child may talk to the parents on the telephone;

    • Weekday and weekend schedules; and

    • Suggested procedures for notifying the other parent when one parent requests a temporary variation from the schedule.

  2. A specific plan regarding decision-making rights and responsibilities, including:
    • Educational decisions and methods of communicating information from the school to both parties;

    • Medical, dental and health care decisions including how health care providers will be selected and a method of communicating medical conditions of the child and how emergency care will be handled;

    • Extracurricular activities, including a method for determining which activities the child will participate in when those activities involve time during which each party is the custodian;

    • Child care providers, including how such providers will be selected;

    • Communication procedures including access to telephone numbers as appropriate;

    • A dispute resolution procedure for those matters on which the parties disagree or in interpreting the parenting plan;

    • If a party suggests no shared decision-making, a statement of the reasons for such a request.

  3. A plan as to how the expenses of the child will be paid, including:
    • The suggested amount of child support to be paid by each party;

    • The payment of health insurance and unreimbursed health expenses;

    • The payment of educational expenses;

    • The payment of extraordinary expenses;

    • The payment of child care expenses;

    • Transportation expenses.


Q: Who writes the parenting plan?

A: Each parent drafts his or her Parenting Plan and submits it to the judge. Often, the parents come to an agreement concerning the terms of the plan but the judge must determine that a particular parenting plan is in the best interest of the child. If necessary, a judge will write the parenting plan.

Learn More From Susan E. Hamra

Are you ready to talk to a lawyer about your child custody case? Please call 636-898-5881 or 800-243-8084 or email Hamra Law Firm, LLC, today. Your first legal consultation is free. The Chesterfield, Missouri, based office of Hamra Law Firm, LLC, serves St. Charles County and St. Louis County.