Ontario Parenting Plan Information
What is a Parenting Plan?
Whether your matter is governed by the Children’s Law Reform Act in terms of custody and access or under the Divorce Act in terms of parenting time and decision-making responsibility, a parenting plan can be a useful tool for preventing conflict (see our article: Types of Parenting Arrangements for a detailed description of forms of custody, access, parenting time and decision-making responsibility.) The Divorce Act clearly defines a parenting plan as a document that contains the elements relating to parenting time, decision-making responsibility or contact to which the parties agree. If your matter is governed by the Children’s Law Reform Act, a parenting plan serves a similar purpose with respect to custody and access. A well-prepared parenting plan contemplates both the current and future needs of the children, along with methods to resolve common areas of conflict in post-separation families.
An Ontario family law lawyer is an excellent resource when creating a parenting plan, because your particular circumstances will be noted in a document that is reliable and respectful of the legal rights of both the children and parents involved. While a parenting plan is a legally binding document, it requires a great deal of cooperation in order to ensure compliance and avoid conflict. Post-separation families with high levels of conflict are not well suited to collaborating or negotiating parenting plans without the assistance of an experienced lawyer.
Typically, a well-written parenting plan will outline the following:
- How decisions about a child’s health, education, and wellbeing will be made;
- A reliable and specific schedule detailing where the child will reside on any given day;
- What methods will be used to meet the child’s physical, emotional, and psychological needs;
- How parents should communicate with each other about parenting issues – for example, via email, over the phone, or in a parenting journal that travels with the children;
- How parents will resolve their future disagreements about parenting: mediation, arbitration, or collaboration;
- What each party expects from the other in terms of discipline and daily routines; and
- The right of first refusal (if a parent is unable to care for the child during their regularly scheduled access time).
Be Specific & Clear in Your Access Schedule
Access and parenting time schedules are most beneficial when they are specific. A well-prepared schedule details the days and hours each parent spends with the children and includes pick up and drop off information. Detailed and recurrent schedules are helpful when planning future events and will also provide children with a sense of routine. In addition to daily access or parenting time, a parenting plan should outline parental access and parenting time for holidays and special occasions such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and birthdays.
Pursuant to section 16.6(1) of the Divorce Act, a court will include the parenting plan submitted by the parties in a parenting or contact order unless, in the opinion of the court, it is not in the best interest of the court to do so in which case the court can make any modifications to the plan that it considers appropriate.
We also welcome you to call our offices at (905) 581-7222 to arrange a confidential consultation with one of our lawyers.