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What should your parenting plan look like?

This is a difficult question. The best parenting plan will be the one that works for your specific situation. There is no "ideal" plan because every family is different and the particular facts of your case will control. Your parenting plan, especially if you have joint or shared custody must be tailored to you and your child's life.

A parenting plan is like a blueprint or schedule of your child's life for the foreseeable future. It will lay out when the child will be with each parent, where the child will spend holidays, birthdays, vacations and other school breaks. It will also detail many other aspects of your interaction with your child's other parent. The more carefully thought out that it is, the better it will be at helping you avoid conflict.

When you develop a parenting plan, in addition to the residential schedule the child will have, you also will describe the decision-making authority of each parent. This is important, as it involves such matters as where the child will attend school, their religious upbringing, and how healthcare decisions will be made.

Your parenting plan should also include a dispute resolution mechanism. You will likely disagree at some point with your child's other parent about some aspect of your plan, and a robust dispute resolution mechanism can help control conflicts and prevent the need to rush to court for every problem.

It should also provide a method for changes that will inevitably come. Your parenting plan may be fine when your child is five-years-old, but in five or ten years, your child's needs will be different and you will want to be able to make changes without contentious and expensive litigation.

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