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I'm often asked "do I really need a parenting plan?" Well I could toss around comments like "failing to plan is planning to fail" blah blah blah. The stark reality however is that yes you definately do.

A parenting plan is a documented agreement between the mother and father (usually divorced or unmarried) that outlines how parenting will take place. Now while this may seem too obvious to have to document, well it's far from it.

A good parenting plan addresses key issues, what type of schooling the child will enjoy, religious upbringing, medical concerns, time spent with extended family (grandparents etc.) as well as with each parent. The plan acknowledges the impotrance of both mother and father in the childs development and sets the groundwork so that everyone knows exactly where they stand and what is expected of them.

Does a parenting plan include money-talk? Not really, it's not a maintenance agreement, that's a separate document. A parenting plan is around the custodial rights and of course obligations and establishes ground rules for conduct around the child, dealing with developmental milestones and yes, the "exchange" between houses.

A properly outlined parenting plan is as much about the exercise of building it as it is about the document. During the process your mediator probes around issues and challenges to get them in the open and dealt with before they become points of argument. Simply by clarrifying everyones expectations up front a lot of arguments never even take place.

A parenting plan is drafted, agreed to and submitted to the Family Advocate for approval to ensure that the childs best interests are properly represented.