What to Include in a Parenting Plan 

What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan is a document that establishes how parents will continue to care for their child after they separate. It includes rules and procedures which govern how parents should act in their co-parenting arrangement until the child turns 18.  

A parenting plan may be general or detailed. Often parents do not think they need a detailed parenting plan, however, a detailed parenting plan reduces potential future conflicts.  

Where to find parenting plan forms

You can find a variety of free parenting plan forms on the Oregon Judicial Department website. Additionally, your local courthouse might also have a county specific parenting plan for you to use. It's important to keep in mind there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to a parenting plan. This plan should be customized to fit the needs of your children and your family.

A parenting plan might include the following: 

  • Regular parenting time schedule (typically during the school year)
  • Holiday and School Break parenting time schedule
  • How the children will be exchanged between parents including specific locations, times, and method of communication
  • Rules about the child’s use of drugs, alcohol, and firearms
  • Rules about child care providers
  • Wellness parameters including rules about meals, bedtime, sleeping arrangements, bathing, and screen time
  • How the parents will share information about the children’s health, education, and activities 
  • How the parents will resolve any co-parenting conflicts (such as mediation before going to court)
  • Rules or a schedule for children communicating with the other parent during a parent’s parenting time
  • Rules about notice if a parent moves (under Oregon law, parents may not move more than 60 miles away from the other parent without providing notice, but parents can also agree to give notice for moving shorter distances)
  • How minor or temporary changes to the parenting plan can be made  

Safety measures for parenting time

Extra safety measures can go into a parenting plan if there are concerns about a parent’s drug or alcohol use, abuse, or mental health. It is difficult to completely forbid a parent from receiving parenting time. However, regulations can be put in place to restrict the time and provide barriers to ensure the safety and well-being of the child.  

Supervised visits

If there are concerns with a parent keeping the children safe during parenting time, a parenting plan can require supervised parenting time for that parent. Parenting time supervisors can include a friend, family member, or professional. However, if parties use a professional supervisor there are usually costs associated with having a professional supervise.

Another option when there are safety concerns with a parent is for that parent to only have parenting time in a public location. Public locations could be a park or mall, where other people are present.

Drug or alcohol tests

If a parent has a drug or alcohol problem, a parenting plan should include measures for keeping the child safe with them. For example, parenting plans can include regular drug testing or if a parent has an alcohol problem, there are private companies with breathalyzer programs for parents. In safety focused plans, there should be rules about what happens if a parent tests positive for drugs or alcohol. A parenting plan might not allow any parenting time until the parent completes treatment or enough negative tests. 

Unless agreed to, the court will rarely order extreme safety measures. A parent has to be a serious risk to the child’s safety without the safety measures. For example, a court would not order supervised parenting time for a parent with no experience caring for a child. But a court might order supervised parenting time if the parent has a long history of drug or alcohol use, child abuse, or mental health episodes. 

Modifying the parenting plan

As a child grows older or things change, parents may need to change the parenting plan. If they agree, they can record those changes in writing before a notary and file the new agreement with the court. If parents do not agree, one can file a Motion to Modify. This process usually takes several months, but can be slower when courts are busy. 

Creating a thorough parenting plan with options for changes will ease the task of co-parenting and save time and money later by avoiding the need for modification in court.  

The Commons Law Center Blog is for information purposes only. It is not legal advice.

posted May 12, 2023

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