Collaborative Practice and Parenting Plans

Collaborative Practice is a useful tool for more than just getting a divorce. Couples who are looking to amicably and respectfully create a set of rules together to govern their co-parenting relationship are also well served by Collaborative Practice. These agreements can be known as Parenting Plans.

About Parenting Plans

Sometimes parents are not married, not necessarily living together and not planning to be married. But as parents, they would like to create a co-parenting plan that is in their children’s best interests, and that works for the parents as well.

Sometimes the parties in Collaborative Practice have been previously married and divorced without a parenting plan, or divorced with a parenting plan they would like to revise.

It is always best if parents can put their children’s welfare first, and it can be helpful to both parents for a default structure to be in place that they can rely on.

While a parenting plan includes which days the children are with which parents, there are many other things that parents might want to include in their plan:

  • Legal and physical custody
  • Time sharing, including school breaks, summers, three day holidays, religious holidays, birthdays (of parents and of children), Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, transportation issues, timing and the venue for picking up and dropping off children
  • Parenting guidelines concerning religious instruction, discipline, food and diet, bedtime routines, tobacco and alcohol use around the children
  • Medical and health care, any counseling or therapy, how to choose providers, who is responsible for making appointments, who will pick up and care for a sick child
  • Health insurance coverage and sharing of costs
  • Education and extracurricular activities: choice of school, how to choose, sharing expenses, attending conferences and open houses, sharing information, choosing tutoring, summer camps, extracurricular activities
  • Right of first option for care (if a parent is going to be on a trip during his or her designated time with the child, will the parent be required to ask the other parent to care for the children before asking anyone else)
  • Communication with children while in other parent’s care
  • Changing the schedule, whether or not “make up” is appropriate when time with the children is missed
  • Supporting the children’s relationship with the other parent
  • Traveling and relocating the child
  • Special needs of the children

Who Will Be Your Collaborative Practice “Team” for Your Parenting Plan?

Many parents choose mental health professionals (co-parenting counselors or coaches) to comprise their Collaborative Team given their familiarity with family systems, communication and co-parenting issues. The one or two coaches then work with the two parents to help them craft their parenting plan.

Other parents choose to have collaborative attorneys work with them, in that the Parenting Plan is also a legal contract.

Adding a neutral financial professional to whichever team they choose to work with can help the parties understand finances around parenting and make better plans and rules to live by—and also take the fear out of the financial commitments they are making about their children.

What Does the Process Look Like?

The couple meets with their Collaborative Professionals to discuss:

  1. Each person’s goals for the children;
  2. Each person’s goals for himself or herself as a parent;
  3. Each person’s goals for the other person as a parent; and
  4. Each person’s concerns giving rise to his or her belief that a Parenting Plan is needed.

They then decide which of the issues they would like to include, and incorporate their decisions about these issues into the Parenting Plan, which can be written by any of the members of their Collaborative Team.

Tell Me More

If you are interested in Collaborative Practice to help you to create a Parenting Plan, whether married, divorced, separated or otherwise, our professionals are trained to make this a productive and as positive a process as is possible for you and the other parent(s) of your child or children. You are invited to contact any of these professionals, all of whom would be pleased to answer your questions about Collaborative Practice and to help you decide if it is the right process for you. For more information about Collaborative Practice visit  Collaborative Practice East Bay, Collaborative Practice San Francisco or Collaborative Practice Marin and Sonoma.